DARE TO ASK: Food allergy is nothing to sneeze about
By PHILLIP MILANO, The Times-Union
My brother doesn't believe my 3-year-old has a peanut allergy. At a recent
dinner at his home, every dish but one had nuts in it. He has also made jokes
that if my daughter's not good, he'll hold her down and feed her peanut butter.
What is his problem?
C. Fox, 39, Santa Clara, Calif.
This allergy seemed to come out of nowhere a few years back. All of a sudden,
folks were being ordered not to send their kids to school with peanut butter
sandwiches, all because a tiny yet vocal and litigious minority started making
these demands. I know it's a legit allergy, but to a lot of people, it seems
like the creation of shrill hypochondriacs. Your brother thinks you're a wacko.
Roger, 45, Los Angeles
One day my parents brought home a dog I turned out to be allergic to. I told
them the dog was making me wheeze. They said I would just have to stay away from
him. I'm now 30 miles away. Some people don't take allergies seriously.
Me, 25, female, New York
I'd avoid this sicko like the plague.
Dwanny, 51, female, Fort Worth
Unfortunately, food-specific allergies became part of the zeitgeist about the
same time as "Environmental Allergies," which are utter horse----. As a result,
a lot of people can't bring themselves to believe someone could be allergic to
one food, or one group of foods.
Ann, 37, Kansas City, Mo.
You feel a tingling on the lips. Your tongue swells. Your chest and throat
linings become inflamed as you gasp for air. Your blood pressure plummets and
your bronchia constrict. One by one, your vital organs begin to shut down. Then
While this can happen to virtually anyone watching Jay Leno interview Dakota
Fanning, it can also occur when people allergic to peanuts accidentally ingest
Six percent of the United States' 50 million allergy sufferers are mainly
allergic to food or drugs, and each year more than 200 people die from food
allergies, says Mike Tringale of the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.
Food allergies also account for 30,000 emergency room visits a year.
Most people who think food allergies are a sham are uninformed, Tringale
said. AAFA surveys reveal that fewer than 20 percent of the public - and only 27
percent of allergy sufferers - realize allergies are an inherited disease of the
"Allergies are the Rodney Dangerfield of diseases: They get no respect."
But why have food allergies more than doubled the past 25 years? One theory:
It's occurring mostly in developed countries, so kids may be growing up in an
overly hygienic environment, and their bodies overreact because they haven't
adapted to allergens, Tringale said. Or, it could be pure math; as more people
with food allergies intermarry, they produce more offspring with food allergies.
And about sado-uncle from Santa Clara:
"It's ignorance or malice on his part," Tringale said. "He needs to be
educated. Or kept away before he causes the death of his niece."
Phillip Milano, author of I Can't Believe You Asked That! (Perigee),
moderates cross-cultural dialogue at Y? The National Forum on People's
Differences. Visit www.yforum.com to submit questions and answers, or mail to
Phillip Milano, c/o The Florida Times-Union, P.O. Box 1949, Jacksonville, FL
32231. Include contact information.