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What some (ignorant) people think about food allergies

Nut Allergies – A Yuppie Invention. This is the title of an ignorant and offensive piece of writing by Joel Stein, an LA Times writer who in his biography calls himself “desperate for attention.” Clearly.

Citing parents’ mass hysteria as the cause of most food allergies, he writes, “Your kid doesn’t have an allergy to nuts. Your kid has a parent who needs to feel special.” Deep breath — I will not allow myself to get worked up over this one man’s idiotic opinion, but unfortunately, he is not the only one who feels this way. I understand the questioning — everyone is baffled by food allergies, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t real and that parents should be made to feel that somehow it is their fault.

I do feel special being a parent of a food allergy kid, but this isn’t the kind of special I would choose or the kind of special I “need” as the writer accuses. WHY ON EARTH would anyone want their child to have food allergies? It sucks. It’s not fun dropping your daughter off at a new school and the first thing you do is make sure the staff knows where the epinephrine autoinjector is and how to use it. It’s really not fun to have to decide whether to take your child to a birthday party and bring all your own food and be worried and on patrol, or just not go and not let your child get to experience the fun because it is safer and less worrisome and easier to stay home that day. No part of dealing with food allergies is fun or desirable or special in a Look-At-Me-I’m-Special kind of way. In fact, most of us try not to have our kid stand out. We try to blend in and pretend we’re not special at all. We bring our own cupcakes to the party and hope that they look just like the cupcakes every other kid is eating. Food companies are trying hard to make the allergen-free food look just like the “regular” foods so that allergy kids don’t feel different.

Here’s something really special, Mr. Stein, who once taught a class in humor writing: worrying that your child could die in 2 minutes if she eats the wrong thing. Special. And definitely something to make fun of, as you continue to do throughout the article. Maybe next time you could poke at diabetes or cancer — those diseases are HILARIOUS!

“Since food allergies kill about as many people as lightning strikes each year, we probably don’t need to ban peanuts from schools or put warnings on every product… [blah blah jokey joke here]” Another great observation, except that food allergies are preventable, and what if the number of people that die each year is as low as it is because of the prevention measures in place. I know many people whose lives have been SAVED by the Epi-pen. And how many deaths have been prevented because we have an allergen-labeling law requiring that even traces of nuts (which can be deadly to some) are put on the label? As for peanut bans in schools, it may be necessary in the younger grades where we strive to protect all our children from harm when they don’t know yet how to protect themselves.

“It is strange how peanut allergies are only an issue in rich, lefty communities.” I actually agree with the writer here — it is strange. Why are food allergies increasing? Why are they more prevalent in clean, western societies? I often hear people say “WE never had food allergies growing up” which translates to: “I don’t believe that more kids have more food allergies now, so hysterical parents must be making it up.” There are real theories that doctors and researchers have about why food allergies are on the rise, and parents making it up is not one of them.

Unfortunately for all of us, many immune system problems, like food allergies, are increasing in prevalence, so there is something going on here that we need to figure out. Is it our environment, our food supply, chemicals? No one knows the answer… but why blame the allergy moms? When’s the last time someone was accused of making up cancer?

Did I just imagine that my daughter’s lips swelled up after she kissed someone who had been eating cashews? And how does a parent pretend that their child is going into anaphylactic shock? Oh, I guess it’s just us Yuppies trying to get attention!

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