Tuesday, August 25, 2009

If I ran the world...

If I ran the world, oatmeal raisin cookies would NEVER contain coconut. Ever. Ugh.

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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Food Allergy Deaths: Less Common Than You Think

I have a new piece on food allergies up on the Huffington Post today. Check it out:

The number of deaths from food allergies, as collected from 2.5 million death certificates across the country, is miniscule. Only eleven people died from food allergies in 2005, the last year for which we have data available. More people died from lawnmower accidents.

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Saturday, February 16, 2008

More on the Food Allergies

Hi, food allergy folk!

You were kind enough to send lots of letters to me and to Harper's in response to my recent article about food allergies.

Some of your letters are published in the new March issue of the magazine, as is a letter from me. Enjoy.

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Thursday, January 10, 2008

Food Allergies in the Times

Yesterday, the NY Times ran a story about AllergiKids called "Food Allergies Stir a Mother to Action." It's been on the Times' most-emailed list for the past two days. An excerpt:

"Working largely from a laptop on her dining room table, [Robyn O'Brien] has looked deep into the perplexing world of childhood food allergies and seen a conspiracy that threatens the health of America’s children. And, she profoundly believes, it is up to her and parents everywhere to stop it."

Incidentally: the Leonard Lopate segment on food allergies has been among the top most-emailed stories for the past week, and has just been edged out by Michael Pollan's new interview about In Defense of Food. Which I am very excited to read. I'm in the middle of The Omnivore's Dilemma for the second time right now-- the reporting is just fantastic.


Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Even Bigger Food Allergy News

The American Academy of Pediatrics has issued a new set of recommendations on food allergies. The full report will be published in the January issue of Pediatrics, the journal of the AAP.

In short, pregnant women don't need to avoid peanuts. The report reads: "Although previous AAP publications have suggested that pregnant women avoid peanuts, a more recent study has reported that there is no association between the maternal consumption of peanuts during pregnancy and childhood peanut allergy."

The data on breastfeeding and food allergies is offically inconclusive. "Because the available published trials have had methodologic shortcomings, more data are necessary to conclude that the avoidance of antigens during lactation prevents atopic dermatitis in infants... Overall, firm conclusions about the role of breastfeeding in either preventing or delaying the onset of specific food allergies are not possible at this time," according to the report.

Finally, the recommendations on delaying allergenic foods have been revised: "In summary, the evidence from these conflicting studies, in balance, does not allow one to conclude that there is a strong relationship between the timing of the introduction of complementary foods and development of atopic disease. This raises serious questions about the benefit of delaying the introduction of solid foods that are thought to be highly allergic (cow milk, fish, eggs, and peanut-containing foods) beyond 4 to 6 months of age; additional studies are needed."

Nice work, AAP. Good job also on questioning the "no peanuts until 3 for any kids, even those without a family history of food allergies" recommendation. I look forward to the results of future studies.


Food Allergy News

I've gotten a lot of response from my recent piece about the exaggerated threat of food allergies.

The latest news: "Anne Muñoz-Furlong and Terry Furlong, Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN) co-founders, have announced their plan to retire in the second half of 2008."

Also, Dr. Hugh Sampson will be on the Leonard Lopate show talking about food allergies on 1/31.

My prediction: Dr. Sampson will talk about how the CDC's figures on the number of food allergy deaths (12) is misleading for a variety of reasons. That the estimate of 150-200 deaths is more accurate (even though it's an estimate) based on a study published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology that finds 30 additional food-related deaths.

Fair enough. That study, however, is not a real epidemiological study-- it is a telephone survey of family members of dues-paying FAAN members.

Another prediction: the line "It's the best estimate we have" will surface at some point.


Sunday, December 16, 2007

On Food Allergies

To those of you visiting for the first time in response to my recent piece about food allergies:


Feel free to email me (mer at failedrelationships.com) and I'll get back to you if I have answers.

I have food allergies. I've had them ever since I was a kid. When I was 4, or 6, or something in that range, my mom put me on a really restricted diet to try to deal with the allergies and some other health issues. The short version: no sugar, no white flour, no peanut butter, no artificial coloring of any kind, no chocolate, no fish, no shellfish, no dairy. It was hellacious.

Like most children, I grew out of my food allergies. By age 10, the incidence of food allergies in children drops to that of the adult population. That's the main way that food allergies differ from environmental allergies: most food allergies are outgrown. Yes, you can even outgrow a nut allergy.

Some other allergy-related questions and answers:

Have you ever had an allergic crisis? Yes.

Have you ever had anaphylaxis? Yes.

Is that the same as going into anaphylactic shock? No. It's confusing, right? The term 'anaphylaxis' can be used to refer to both a range of allergic symptoms OR to anaphylactic shock, the extremely rare and sometimes fatal reaction. When someone says "I had an anaphylactic episode" or "I got anaphylaxis from eating a peanut butter sandwich," they may not mean what you think they mean.

Have you used an Epi-pen? Yes.

Was it prescribed to you? No.

Have you had to seek emergency medical treatment because you had an allergy attack that got so bad you had trouble breathing? Yes.

What happened? I got an adrenaline shot, and it was awesome. My breathing improved immediately. Quelle relief. It was scary, and I suppose I "could have" died, but can't we say that about any crisis?

What else are you allergic to, besides certain foods? Too much stuff to mention. Animals, plants, food, drugs, certain kinds of alcohol, mold. The smell of urban street vendors roasting chestnuts makes me nauseous, but that's merely an aversion, not an allergy.

Do these allergies make you a huge pain in the ass to have dinner with? No, but my charming personality does.