Living With Food Allergies

We bust some myths and give some tips about children & food allergies.

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Dr. Sydney Spiesel.
Photo:Chion Wolf
Genevieve Salvatore.
Photo:Chion Wolf
Living With Food Allergies
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Living With Food Allergies

No one can escape the issue of extreme food allergies. Maybe it's you who is allergic to peanuts, dairy, shellfish, citrus. Maybe it's your little son or daughter. Or maybe you don't have any allergies, but because you eat food, you find that other people's allergies affect your life. Are you ever asked to keep peanuts out of the snack you're bringing to school? Or to keep dairy out of the cake you made for the office birthday party?

If it seems as if food allergies are on the rise, you're not imagining things - Food allergies are on the rise. Last week, a Slate magazine writer asked parents to stop their children from eating snacks at the playground. Reasonable accomodation? Or totally unreasonable demand?

Mark Oppenheimer fills in for Colin McEnroe as we talk about the ethics of children's allergies.

You can join the conversation! E-mail colin@wnpr.org or Tweet us @wnprcolin.


  

Comments

EMAIL FROM STEPHEN:

Chion,
After reading the one email you posted from "Zoe" I felt a need to vent my thoughts.

1. Despite Zoe and her way of living Genevieve and I choose to not place risk into our 9 year olds life by having peanut products in our house, we think that is responsible parenting. No matter what the issue is, if it exists the risk should be mitigated if you have the ability to do so. It costs nothing to eliminate peanut products from our lives, as a family why wouldn't you do so?........nobody ever died from not eating peanuts that I know of. I cannot believe that having severe reactions was acceptable to Zoe and her family, I guess stopping a little league game, running on the field and giving our son an EpiPen injection would just be easier or more socially tolerant in the mind of Zoe.

2. Severe allergy levels cannot be outgrown or desensitized by any doctor to levels that are not severe when it comes to peanuts. Despite what the doctor from the "for profit" practice said, lower level allergies to egg and milk are not comparable to severe peanut allergies or any severe food allergy, thus his comment that there is no "cure" around the corner for these allergies. As Genevieve noted, if a cure existed or the desensitization could work than we would be doing this. I went through years of syringes by Dr. Krall in Hartford as a child, my allergies still exist despite years of desensitization and they are ordinary allergies to dust and pollen etc. Yes in some degree I likely have a better tolerance, but again these were not severe allergies.

3. Peanut not being airborne, I guess particulates are no longer airborne such as pollen and dust either. People must be ingesting these allergens as well. Not sure why inhaling peanut particulates from a shell would be different than any other particulate......you breath in, particulates sit at the back of the throat, ends up in the body. Maybe Zoe can drop by Five Guys burgers and fries (peanut shells on floors) and roll around to test this theory as she does not avoid restaurants despite her allergies.

4. The West Hartford practice is not a research facility, it is a for profit practice and this is not research. I would like to see statistics of how many "severe" peanut allergies have been desensitized to non-severe levels. Keep in mind the levels that our child is at are very high, desensitizing his allergy would be equivalent to throwing a deck chair off the Titanic.......it may be lowered but would still be severe and high risk

All aspects of our society have safety regulations applied, thus OSHA. In construction we need to tell grown adults how to use 6 foot ladders per OSHA, how close you can be near a floor opening without a harness etc. Grown professional adults need governance.......to save lives. We do not ask for governance, we ask people that can make choices to assist children to make them in arenas that are created for youth participation (Little League, schools).

The little peanut allergy jokes in your segments coming back from breaks were poor decisions. I also did not take these allergies seriously when I first heard of them. Things changes when I saw my 18 month old son being wheeled into Yale-NHH with tubes and ventilators, no doctor in the emergency room knew why and we could have lost our child. Not very funny!

I do not think you portrayed the reality of what these severe allergic kids go through, I think you are missing the seriousness and the level of risk that needs to be managed.

The email from Zoe shows your stance.

EMAIL FROM ZOE:

I am a teenager living with allergies and I strongly disagree with some of the statements made by parents of allergic kids. Both my brother, my sister and I all have life threatening allergies. We have survived all our lives with peanut butter, nut and dairy products in our household. We have had reactions but have been well trained to handle these situations. We never leave home without our epipens, but we have never been denied life experiences because of our allergies. I am very sad to hear that so many children have been prevented from living normally due to fear of their allergies. One parent even said that her family "avoided restaurants...the fear is too great." We have gone to restaurants, been on planes, and naviagted food in other countries without difficulty with our allergies. Simple communication can avoid all of this fear that is so prevalent today. When one mother commented on how she didn't want other children bringing peanuts to a baseball game, I found it very unrealistic. It is impossible to plan and coordinate a child's life around their allergies, they need to be taught how to handle it themselves and be able to navigate their own food choices. My siblings and I have been very capable of this, and parents should be more trusting that they are. My parents have raised us not to fear food, but to relish the opportunity to try new things while being mindful of the ingredients. I rememeber being taught to always read the ingredietnts, scanning specifically for words like "cacine", "whey", even if I didn't know what they were.

In truth, I have had a fair number of allergic reactions, a few of them life-threatening, but I was prepared and handled the situation calmly. Like one of the allergists on the show said, desensitization is possible. I was able to outgrow both my dairy and egg allergy because I was exposed to small quantities of them in what I ate. Contanimation builds immunity.

I also have been informed by my personal allergist, Doctor Jeffrey Factor from West Hartford, that many patients can cause themselves to have a reaction without any contact with the food. Those who claim that they are 'airborne' allergic are so afraid of their allergy that they cause themselves to have a reaction just from fear and stress. He explained that when a jar of peanut butter, for example, was opened in the same room as a person claiming airborne allergies that they only reacted when they could see the allergen, and not when it was out of view.

I hope you can address my concerns and comments, and I would love to speak on the show about how I have dealt with my allergies.