Stories about: Food allergy

The politics of food allergy

Image: Flickr/Dan4th

Food allergies are in the news again, and the conversation is getting heated. For starters, there was some national coverage around a Florida first-grader who’s so allergic to peanuts that her classmates need to follow special rules to keep her safe. The safety measures go beyond separate lunch tables and restriction of class-wide treats like cupcakes; all the children in her class need to wash their hands every time they enter classroom, and rinse their mouths out after eating.

To adults, the rules may sound simple to follow, but for a room full of 6-year-olds, most of whom don’t understand how food can be deadly for some people, the steps aren’t always so easy to remember. In addition to strict safety standards around food in the girl’s classroom, the school recently brought in a peanut sniffing dog to make sure there were no hidden allergy triggers lurking elsewhere in the building.

It’s a lot of regulation and upkeep for a small school, and some parents say the extra teacher attention, class time and money spent on just one child is negatively affecting the rest of the class.

“If I had a daughter who had a problem, I would not ask everyone else to change their lives to fit my life,” said one parent at the school.

Michael Pistiner, MD, MMSc

Over a thousand miles away in Chicago, there’s another food fight brewing. In January, the city’s board of education passed a mandate that would require elementary schools to serve free breakfast in every classroom, providing a much needed healthy meal to thousands of children from low-income families. No one opposes feeding hungry children, but there is a segment of Chicago’s parent population that’s vocally opposing the program: parents of kids with food allergies.

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Food Challenged: A look back

Joshua about to eat his first plate of eggs

The following is the final post in series on food allergies and their treatment at Children’s Hospital Boston. Written by Joshua Feblowitz, a research assistant at Brigham & Women’s Hospital and a freelance writer for Children’s.

After last week’s successful food challenge, it was finally time to head to my favorite diner for my first plate of eggs. As I pulled into the diner’s parking lot, a few questions were running through my mind: will I have a reaction? What should I order? What if the anticipation is better than the food? Admittedly, most of my thoughts were preoccupied with the upcoming meal, but I also couldn’t help but think about how much things have changed since I was first diagnosed with severe food allergies two decades ago.

There’s no question that the landscape surrounding pediatric food allergies has shifted dramatically. Around the country, all kinds of food allergies are on the rise. Current research indicates that as many as 4 out of every 100 kids in the US now have food allergies, a dramatic increase over the numbers a decade ago. Hospital admissions for food allergies have risen more than 500% since I was diagnosed in the late 1980s.

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Food Challenged: The 'egg-speriment' begins

The following is the second post in series on food allergies and their treatment at Children’s Hospital Boston. Written by Joshua Feblowitz, a research assistant at Brigham & Women’s Hospital and a freelance writer for Children’s, the series chronicles Joshua’s severe food allergy history and his life-long  treatment at Children’s. In this entry, Joshua recounts a recent test conducted at Children’s to determine whether or not his body has naturally outgrown his severe egg allergy.

Test day: Joshua and his allergist, Lynda Schneider, MD

7:00 AM: It’s the day of my food challenge and I wake up (naturally) from a dream about breakfast. I get ready and then hop on the green line headed towards Longwood Medical Area.

7:45 AM: I arrive at Children’s Hospital and head up to the Center for Ambulatory Treatment and Clinical Research (CAT/CR) on the 4th floor of the Farley building. I’m a little bit nervous (and also hungry, no breakfast before a food challenge!).

I haven’t taken my regular allergy medications for over a week and I’m feeling itchy and sneezy already. For many years, I’ve taken three different medications each and every day for my asthma and allergies. However, some of them could mask the initial symptoms of a severe reaction so it’s better to perform the test off medications.

As instructed, I have my EpiPen with me. There will also be Benadryl and other medications on hand just to be safe. Because of my negative blood tests and skin test, I know that everything should be OK, but I’m still feeling apprehensive.

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