Food allergies: exaggeration?

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The following is an excerpt from an article called “Everyone’s Gone Nuts: The exaggerated threat of food allergies,” by Meredith Broussard (subscription required). It appears in the most recent issues of Harper’s Magazine:

There is no question that food allergies are real. Yet instead of creating the healthy, happy children shown here [a photo from a Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network brochure is pictured], exaggerating the threat may actually do as much harm as the allergies themselves. The peril is now perceived as so great that psychosomatic reactions to foods and their odors are not uncommon. Recent surveys have also shown that children thought to have food allergies feel more overwhelmed by anxiety, more limited in what they believe they can safely accomplish, than even children with diabetes and rheumatological disease. One study documented how food-allergic youths become terror-stricken when inside places like supermarkets and restaurants, since they know that allergens are nearby. Such psychological distress is exacerbated by parents, who report keeping their children away from birthday parties and sending them to school in “No Nuts” T-shirts. Having been fed a steady diet of fear for more than two decades, we have becomes, it appears, what we eat.

I suppose it’s old news, but fear and anxiety over allergies seems to fill people, probably because of the immediacy of allergies. I’d wager a lot of people know someone with an allergy and they’ve maybe witnessed a reaction, or had such an event described to them. Are severe reactions typical?

Who knows? All I know is a fuckin’ love peanut butter, and pass the friggin’ milk.

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4 Responses to “Food allergies: exaggeration?”

  1. Canico
    January 6, 2008 at 3:49 pm #

    I don’t understand the intentions of Meredith B. Is she trying to pick a bone w/ FAAN? Of course FAAN became the place people knowledgeable reporters go to since they have a big list of knowledgable experts they can interview! One would go to the Epilepsy Foundation as a resource if they had questions about Epilepsy, wouldn’t they? Did she want people with food allergies to come to her, especially since of her allergy to vermouth? Why would you want children with severe food allergies not to carry Epi-pens just in case? Anxiety level wise~it’s like having Band-aids or TUMS in my purse. I don’t care how many children died statistically, they’ve died. Respect that. Think about SIDS awareness, it makes parents very anxious, but it saves babies lives. Does it matter how many babies died? All I care about is protecting my nut allergic son’s life for that “just in case moment” that may or may not happen. It’s about being prepared and being safe rather than sorry. Usually, being prepared makes one less anxious.

    After reading her blog containing the name failed realtionships(what?), I am baffled why one would make her an expert on food allergies and take her article as fact ~ because she has food allergies herself, like to vermouth? How common is that allergen? Do they have vermouth in foods and at schools?

    Apparently anyone can write an article nowadays and become an expert!

  2. Zeke
    January 7, 2008 at 7:54 am #

    I really like milk, cheese, peanut butter. I also have a 4-year old son who is allergic to dairy and peanuts. The first time we gave him dairy-based formula, when he was 4 months old, he developed hives on his face and neck. Since then he has been tested multiple times in multiple ways and is still allergic to dairy to which he has had several reactions despite our vigilance–including twice when he had trouble breathing. He also has consistently tested positive to peanuts.
    I love him more than anything in the world, and the irresponsible, poorly researched, inaccurate article in Harper’s is going to make more people dismissive of and careless about the very real danger we have to live with and stay aware of every day. My kid is a little trooper who accepts that he can’t share the pizza, cake, and ice cream when he goes to a birthday party. We try to minimize his anxiety/fear while teaching him to be responsible and protect himself. But why do others seem to resent his food allergies? Or if not resent, why so little sympathy and attempt to understand?

  3. Canico
    January 11, 2008 at 4:59 pm #

    Also, here’s an article with an unbiased doctor’s comments specifically about Meredith Broussard’s.Hopefully this will clear up some of the mess she made. Please read:
    http://www.healthcentral.com/allergy/c/3900/19063/nuts-doctor/

  4. theboysmom
    April 13, 2008 at 9:17 am #

    “Who knows? All I know is a fuckin’ love peanut butter, and pass the friggin’ milk.”

    Well, qute honestly a glass of milk, even just spilled on his hand, would kill my child.

    Good for you that you do not have to live an allergic life. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone, even you.

    Since my kid started preschool I am AMAZED at people’s lack of compassion and understanding. It makes me sick.