Horrifying Article in Slate

Posted on: Thu, 07/27/2006 - 6:30am
Greenlady's picture
Joined: 06/30/2004 - 09:00

I found this article horrifying, particularly where she deliberately sends unsafe food to a pre-school. When I calm down, I'm definitely sending a letter


family: Snapshots of life at home.
Trees vs. Children
Are nut allergies taking over the planet?
By Emily Bazelon
Posted Thursday, July 27, 2006, at 2:22 PM ET
Earlier this month, the city of Milford, Conn., agreed to cut down three 60-feet-high hickory trees because of a 3-year-old's nut allergy. The trees rise over the backyard and swimming pool of the child's grandmother, who helps take care of him. According to the New York Times, he once had to go to the hospital after touching a bowl of cashews. If the trees don't come out, he could die, his family told the town. Neighbors, however, are skeptical: They say the grandmother tried to have one of the trees removed before and is now using the allergy to her advantage.

Who is crazy here

Posted on: Thu, 07/27/2006 - 7:36am
2BusyBoys's picture
Joined: 09/03/2004 - 09:00

Horrifying? Not to me. Seemed pretty honest and balanced. Maybe I'm missing something [img]http://uumor.pair.com/nutalle2/peanutallergy/confused.gif[/img]

Posted on: Thu, 07/27/2006 - 8:00am
anonymous's picture
Joined: 05/28/2009 - 16:42

I don't have a problem with it, either. It seems very honest and the writer didn't seem vicious or all "got to protect my rights"-y. The writer just wants to know how far people really have to go to protect someone. Truly, why is it that this writer can't send may contains to class? Is there a fear that the allergic child will eat them? To think that peanut protein can make its way from a may contain to the mouth/skin of a PA kid seems a bit of a stretch for me. A peanut butter cup bothers me. Plain M&M's (for others, not for Sam) do not. As PA parents, of course we want our children to be as safe as possible -- but we might find that others are a lot more willing to help us out if we don't ask for (or demand) more than we need to.

Posted on: Thu, 07/27/2006 - 9:00am
Corvallis Mom's picture
Joined: 05/22/2001 - 09:00

I certainly don't see anything wrong with the spirit of the article.
Frankly, I would prefer it as well if everyone with any kind of food intolerance didn't label themselves as "severely allergic" to everything under the sun. It diminishes my daughter's freaking reality. (Pardon my turn of phrase)
She [i]is[/i] one of the unlucky ones. I'd rather she learned to live the way she can rather than feeling perpetually sorry for herself, however.
Her life is really really limited, though. Truly. Nobody would find fault with us for being hypocritical about accommodations we don't really need or live in our own day-to-day life. So I have an answer for the snotty, mean-spirited "Well, then, if she's [i]really soooo sensitive[/i], how do you ever__________" ( fill in the blank with whatever activity du juor) My reply? WE DON'T. (Not like they do, anyway.)
I also don't have a problem with my daughter [i]being around[/i] "in a facility" products at all. And with ample adult supervision, I don't have a problem with her being around "may contains."
No, it isn't "fair" to her, but then again, life isn't always about what's fair.
What I am curious about though is the author's purported Sampson quote from the NYTimes Magazine cover article. I no longer have the article mentioned, but I remember it very well. And I don't recall that quote about "hypochondria". What I do recall is him saying that with little PA kids if everyone THINKS you are crazy, you're doing it right. The part about unnecessary food restrictions referred to self-diagnoses, not our kids.
Anyone else have the NYTimes piece?

Posted on: Thu, 07/27/2006 - 9:19am
shoshana18's picture
Joined: 02/02/2005 - 09:00

here is the link to the NY Times article.
the link doesn't seem to be working right. the first page of the article (that contains Sampson's quote) is pasted below.
the Slate piece takes Sampson's quote somewhat out of context.
The Allergy Prison
Published: June 10, 2001
Parents of highly allergic children tend to know how annoying they can be and that they can come across as the most overly anxious people ever to hector a school nurse. For the most part, they don't much care. To them, their obsessive precautions are the least they can do. When Amy Nathan goes grocery shopping, she checks every product's lists of ingredients, reading every one of the millimeter-high words no matter how many times she has bought it before. The recipe could change, if only slightly. Then she double-checks that list as she unpacks the groceries, then triple-checks it once again before actually serving the item. She frequently follows up with manufacturers to grill them about their production procedures. (The F.D.A. recently examined 85 independent cookie and ice-cream manufacturers and found nearly one-quarter of their products contained ingredients not listed.) Her routines are part talismanic ritual, part doctor's orders. ''I tell my patients, if people point at you when you walk down the street and say, 'Look at that neurotic parent,''' says Paul Ehrlich, a pediatric immunologist in New York City, ''then and only then are you being careful enough.''
No doubt, some of the rise in allergies can be attributed to greater awareness and the culture's diminishing tolerance for illness in any form. And as with most diseases, with increased awareness comes a degree of hypochondria. These kinds of allergies play upon two of our most persistent preoccupations -- health and food. ''It's always tempting to relate some physical event or symptom back to what you've put in your mouth,'' says Dr. Hugh Sampson, chief of the division of pediatric allergy and immunology at Mount Sinai Medical Center. ''Hypochondria is a big problem in this area.'' He doesn't sound so much frustrated as accepting of the fact that some of the parents or patients who come to see him will want to discuss allergies that do not exist. ''There's definitely a certain personality type,'' he says. ''It's usually the person who comes in and says they're allergic to 30 different things, as opposed to the person who comes in and says she thinks she has an allergy to Brazil nuts.'' Relatively simple blood tests can reveal whether the allergen-specific antibody known as IgE is produced in response to a given food. Nonetheless, Sampson occasionally hears reports of parents who seem so invested in their child's unproven food allergies that the child ends up dangerously malnourished.
But even accounting for food neurotics, Sampson, widely considered the country's foremost expert on pediatric allergies, is convinced that food allergies -- medically proven ones -- are increasingly prevalent. Sampson tested comparable groups of children in the 1980's and in the 1990's and found that the presence of antibodies to peanuts had increased by 55 percent. Actual allergic reactions had increased by 95 percent. ''The study is certainly not conclusive,'' Sampson says, ''but it does suggest that something has changed.'' For all Sampson knows, it's the nut itself; it could also be that children are now introduced to some of these foods at earlier ages, before their immune systems are fully developed. (If a child who is breast-feeding has the right genetic predisposition, he might react to the nuts in his mother's diet, thereby triggering an allergy that could otherwise have remained latent.)
Another theory, however, that is gaining currency among immunologists is that some change in the environment, something added or missing, has disrupted the workings of the immune system. Among the white blood cells that protect the body, there are two kinds of lymphocytes that interact in a kind of subtle feedback mechanism -- the kind that fights intracellular infections (like viruses) and the kind that fights extracellular infections (like parasitic worms) and, erroneously, allergens. In a healthy body, as the production of one kind of cell is triggered, a protein is released that suppresses the production of the other kind. And vice versa -- it is an efficient way of making sure that the body's resources are allocated to the most urgent task. As allergies of every kind have risen in developed nations, immunologists have started to question whether a third kind of lymphocyte, which controls the activities of the other two, has lost its capacity to keep both arms of the defense system in check. This regulatory failure would account for the recent rise in autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis, in which the infection-fighting system becomes so overactive that it turns against the body's own cells. When the allergen-fighting system speeds out of control, the result is hay fever / or children who develop life-threatening reactions to peanuts.

Posted on: Thu, 07/27/2006 - 9:29am
Corvallis Mom's picture
Joined: 05/22/2001 - 09:00

I was wrong... it was Ehrlich who gave the "neurotic" quote, which has always been a personal favorite of mine.
But I think Sampson does a good job in the original article of carefully NOT SAYING what this author tries to quote him saying. PA kids with medical diagnosis of allergy (even MFA) are not who he is talking about. No wonder I didn't recollect the quote she uses out of context.

Posted on: Thu, 07/27/2006 - 9:52am
joeybeth's picture
Joined: 09/01/2006 - 09:00

i too have no problem with what the writer of the first article said, for the most part. i see no reason at all why other kids cannot eat may-contains near my child. it's sad that my daughters cannot have them...but that's life. they are learning some important lessons even if it's not quite fair all the time. however, i would be very upset if peanut products (listed in the ingredients) were allowed in the classroom. that's not just unfair...it's also dangerous. my two pa girls ARE that sensitive, as are others.
i also agree that too many people call their own sensitivities, intolerances or mild allergies "life threatening" when if fact they are not. that just makes the few of us that ARE dealing with the very real threat of anaphylaxis look like neurotics.
a perfect example would be my girls' soy allergy. yes...they are both allergic to soy and have always been. is it a serious allergy for them???? no. does it create the potential for anaphylaxis? no. do we eat products containing soy? yes.
if i were to go around exclaiming that my girls have a life threatening allergy to soy, while feeding it to them and having it near them, it would make it easy for other people with a REAL life threatening allergy to soy look as though they could not be taken seriously. for that reason, i don't mention the soy allergy to our school nurse or teachers. i wouldn't want to undermine someone else's need to be taken seriously in their requests to protect their child with a real, life threatening soy allergy.
it is for that same reason that i wish others who claim to have serious, life threatening allergies, but in reality do not, would stop saying it to anyone and everyone who will listen. (getting gas from milk, for ex, is very different from going into anaphylaxis from milk.....).
i'm sure there are people who get tired of being inconvenienced by hypochondriacs, and who could blame them? i think the writer of the first article was expressing frustration over having his/her child's "may contain" snack taken away. it's not like he was trying to send in a pb sandwich, pb crackers or reeses or something.
for my family, getting rid of the obvious peanut risks in the classroom is all i ask for. AND I DO ASK FOR THAT. it's a necessity. i don't do it because i have some need to inconvenience other people. but, other children can consume their may contain items as they wish...i feel the risk is quite low that peanut is in the item in the first place and even lower that it could get into or onto my child.

Posted on: Thu, 07/27/2006 - 10:20am
VariegatedRB's picture
Joined: 11/23/2005 - 09:00

This was my favorite part
Quote:I left the crackers with Eli. They provoked no allergic reaction in his preschool classmate. When I got home that night, I checked the Annie's box. There was the telltale warning: "Produced in a facility that also manufactures products containing peanuts and tree nuts." So, what's the moral of this story

Posted on: Thu, 07/27/2006 - 10:20am
Momcat's picture
Joined: 03/15/2005 - 09:00

I think the article is ok overall, but I was annoyed about the author sending may contain snacks. The author knew the rule, had a snack sent back the day before, and STILL did not take 2 seconds to read the cracker package before sending them to school with the child. The school agreed to this rule. It is not up to this parent to decide that it doesn't apply to them.

Posted on: Thu, 07/27/2006 - 10:50am
joeybeth's picture
Joined: 09/01/2006 - 09:00

okay. maybe i will agree with you since the kids are very, very young but with older children in school it's only playing russian roulette if the PA kid eats the may contain snack. the others should safely be able to have that snack without creating a risky situation for the PA child. (just my opinion...i'm willing to consider that i could be wrong. it's just worked for us this way and i find we get far more cooperation from other students/parents/staff if we don't impose too many restrictions. just the absolutely necessary ones).
i didn't read the part where it stated these children were of preschool age. even so, my kids knew (even at that age), not to sample anyone else's snack. i realize that could vary from child to child though. there could be some risk to that.

Posted on: Thu, 07/27/2006 - 11:38am
mckennakatesmom's picture
Joined: 09/07/2004 - 09:00

Am I wrong, or isn't ALL peanut allergy life threatening? The writer of the first article references kids who are only "slightly allergic" or something to that effect.
She also stated that it would be hard to determine whether a minor allergy had progressed to a serious one because it would require testing after each exposure. This makes no sense, as test results do not indicate the seriousness of the allergy, only the likelihood of a reaction (in my opinion, NOT the same thing). If my child has a RAST of 1.50, she can still have an anaphylactic reaction, regardless of that number or her prior reactions. Just as a child with a higher RAST might only have hives. That is one of the scariest things about PA, the extreme unpredictability. Yes, perhaps she would be unlikely to have any reaction, but that's not a chance I'm willing to take. Just as there may not be a high risk of my daughter dying in a car accident if she's not in her carseat 20% of the time. I don't care if it's a small risk, I'm not going to drive around without protecting her 100% of the time.
My problem with the article has more to do with this misleading information than the writer's complaint. As we all know, nobody can understand what this is like unless they deal with it everyday. I wonder what "risks" she'd be willing to take if her children were the ones with PA?
As for parents of kids with so-called mild food allergies being too extreme and making it confusing as to when people should really take it seriously, I believe the opposite is true. I have found that parents who don't take their child's allergy that seriously make it more difficult for me to keep my daughter safe. I have had to answer the question more than once, "how allergic is she"? I tell people you are allergic to peanuts or not, any reaction could potentially be fatal. I will continue to approach it this way until my daughter is healed or old enough to answer these questions herself.


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