VEGEMITE KID: Joshua Greenwell-Smith, 8, of Goonellabah, eats lunch at Blue Hills College
VEGEMITE KID: Joshua Greenwell-Smith, 8, of Goonellabah, eats lunch at Blue Hills College

PEANUT PERIL

By RENEE REDMOND

JOSHUA GREENWELL-SMITH is a Vegemite kid. That's because if he eats peanut butter he could die.

The Goonellabah eight-year-old has anaphylaxis, a severe allergic reaction to any nuts, eggs or sesame seeds which, if not treated immediately, can be fatal.

Anaphylaxis is present in about one-in-50 children and one-in-200 adults, and has prompted a widespread ban on peanut butter and nuts in Northern Rivers school tuckshops.

Twelve schools across the region contacted by The Northern Star said they did not sell peanuts or peanut butter at their tuckshops.

However, two of the 12 schools said they did supply peanut butter to individuals at the request of their parents.

When Joshua started at Blue Hills College last year the principal, Danny Karrasco, took peanut butter sandwiches off the tuckshop list and split the Year Three lunch area into two sections ? peanut and non-peanut.

"We can't have a complete ban on peanut butter because a lot of students are vegetarian and that's all they like to eat on their sandwiches," he said.

"Banning it from the tuckshop means we can keep the peanuts in one area and avoid Joshua from coming in contact with it.

"Once the children in the peanut area eat their lunch they have to wash their hands with soap because Joshua can have a bad allergic reaction even if he touches it."

Joshua said a typical lunch was a piece of mum's cake, a Vegemite sandwich and an apple.

"We don't have any of the food I am allergic to at home, and I know what I can and can't eat," he said.

Joshua's teacher, Kelly Donnelly, said all the teachers had been trained on how to treat Joshua and action plans were posted in every classroom.

"I have an EpiPen, which is an adrenalin shot which I keep in the classroom, and another in the main office. We also have other medication to give him if he has a rash or hives," she said.

"His mum makes special treats for me to reward him with during class, and when we have art lessons we don't use egg cartons.

"Because I'm with Joshua about six hours a day I don't eat any nuts myself."

Joshua's mother, Alison Greenwell-Smith, said Joshua was always ill as a baby and was diagnosed with anaphylaxis when six months old.

"I kissed him on the cheek after eating a peanut butter sandwich and his face swelled up," she said.

North Coast Director of Public Health Greg Bell said young people were becoming more susceptible to allergies.

"The schools have a duty of care to inform students and parents if they have products which contain nuts at their tuckshops," he said.

"Separate areas for lunch makes sense, but it would have to be well supervised. It is something schools need to look at closely."

Department of Education spokesman Sven Wright said a blanket ban on peanut butter and nuts at schools would not work.

"Each school and each student is different, so we can't just put blanket bans on nuts," he said.

"If a school canteen wants to ban peanut butter and nuts to be safe, that's their decision."

Mr Wright said the education and health departments worked together to help schools with anaphylactic students.

"We put an action plan in place which involves the teachers, parents and students," he said.



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