"Your kid doesn't have an allergy to nuts. Your kid has a parent who needs to feel special. Your kid also spends recess running and screaming, "No! Stop! Don't rub my head with peanut butter!"
Those are the words and opinion of opinion columnist-turned-pediatric allergist Joel Stein in his article "Nut Allergies: A Yuppie Invention." I'm sure he'd welcome your comments since he included his email address at the end of his article: firstname.lastname@example.org His bio states that he is " desperate for attention" and he's gotten more than his share over this piece.
Actually, I think he is a pretty funny guy and I swear I wouldn't have taken the bait had he simply ranted on about why he feels accommodations are not necessary.
But instead, he sprinkled his article with a few out of context facts and topped them off with his own ridiculous conclusions for the rise in food allergies. (i.e. Lefty, yuppie moms who want to feel special!)
He mentions that 25% of parents think their child has a food allergy when only 4% actually do. We can't do anything about parents who think their children have food allergies when they don't. My concern is for the 4% or more who actually do have diagnosed food allergies because articles like this one food allergies sound extremely rare and actually make fun of this condition. This makes our job as parents of food allergic children even more difficult.
Studies have shown an increase in all allergic diseases. Yet, we don't hear anyone arguing about the increase in eczema, asthma or allergic rhinitis. The difference is that food allergies require accommodations, which get under the skin of those who either don't acknowledge the seriousness of food allergies or who choose to view these accommodations as an infringement on their (or their child's) personal freedoms.
The way some parents tend to their allergic children and the way some schools accommodate these children may seem extreme, but keep in mind that a sizable portion of the general public does not even believe that food allergies exist. Sometimes black and white guidelines are implemented to leave no room for interpretation by those who are not familiar with food allergies. (Not naming names here)
At times, it may seem like more is being done than is necessary for an allergic child's safety. This may mean that someone is inconvenienced. Parents may not be able to pick up their fundraiser candy from the classroom or they may have to pack an alternative snack.
The opposite is also true. Some schools and parents, unknowingly and regrettably, have not done enough to keep their allergic children safe. As a result, they lost their children to a fatal anaphylactic reaction that occurred on a class field trip, in the principal's office, in a hotel lobby, at a camp fire, in a restaurant, in a mall restroom, etc. The stakes of not doing enough are very high. How can we not err on the side of a child's life?
And last but not least, parents don't think its "cool to freak kids out" Every allergy parent I know practices the "goldilocks principle" of balancing safely with normalcy every single day. This is often the most challenging aspect of our parenting. Yes, children who have food allergies have anxiety, but it is pretty scary to a child when you feel like you can't breathe or to have to take a ride in an ambulance after your Halloween party. And trust me, there's nothing special about it.
Published On: January 28, 2009