Monday, November 16, 2009


I have to vent. Have you read this article in Chatelaine? If not, read it for a fine example of cobbling together random pieces of information, adding some cherry-picked research, and topping it with a healthy dose of personal bias, and putting it all together as a statement of fact. I know this blog is supposed to be about nice things (I hope) but this issue is close to my heart. My son has a severe peanut allergy- documented, diagnosed and proven to be fact. He's almost died. It's a serious thing. So I have to share this in the hopes that it will further educate somebody.

I responded to the article with the following comment:

"This is a ridiculous article with no real point or apparent value to any reader. Comparing lightening deaths and brain injuries, which are random and sometimes just the result of being in the wrong situation at the wrong time, to an anaphylactic reaction to a common food item, which can be avoided with simple measures, lacks logic. This is just enough information, patched together, to further confuse a difficult and confusing situation.

The truth is that, for those of us who have allergic children, there is no definitive information on how to deal with reactions, other than to avoid having one. When to use antihistamines, when to use an epi-pen, unknown side effects (or even effectiveness) of the medications given once you hit the emergency room- ask different doctors and you'll get different answers. No one really knows why some children are allergic and others are not, whether early exposure causes the allergy or whether it prevents it. You can see from the dizzying array of study references in the article that there is no real agreement on the issue. Reactions can range from mild to deadly, and in my experience, can vary from exposure to exposure. A rash or hives can quickly become something much worse. A reaction can re-occur or even worsen after 6-8 hours. Some are sensitive to the smell of peanut, while others need to ingest a certain amount, before having a severe reaction. Unfortunately we don't really know which type of reaction will happen when. The point is that allergies are variable, changing and sometimes unpredictable. You only need to see an allergic reaction happen to know you never want it to happen again.

I certainly don't consider myself a fanatic, or one that overreacts, nor do I want to make my son feel like he's a 'problem' or make this thing a huge deal in his life. I educate my son (age 4), as best I can, about his allergy, and he likely won't eat anything unless it's peanut free. He's learned to ask at a very young age because he remembers almost dying. And it's just a part of his life now and he seems okay with it. But many children will eat things they shouldn't, or touch things without thinking. Accidents happen.

It seems to me that, in the interest of playing it safe and taking care of the most vulnerable members of our society, and until there is a definitive assessment of the cause of these allergies, we can just err on the side of safety, practice a little kindness and foster a spirit of generosity. All we can do at this point, is to avoid the problem, and that is why there are nut free policies in place, and why other life threatening allergens should probably be banned from places small children are. What does it really matter, in the grand scheme of things, if your child can't eat peanut butter, or milk, or soy, or any other potentially life threatening allergen for one meal and two snacks a day? I suspect kids will eat what's available when it's their only option. And you might just be teaching them something about compassion and caring, and doing something for others, just because."

Please educate youself- learn about allergies, know the signs of an allergic reaction, know how to use an Epi-Pen or TwinJect, call 911 ASAP when an anaphylactic reaction occurs. All that information and more here.

Stepping off soap box now...

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