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PostPosted: Wed Aug 02, 2006 2:44 pm 
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Location: Ontario, Canada / Cambridge, UK
Obviously, this author resents all the accommodations she and her children have to make for the allergic community. Although she is trying to show both sides, I'm not convinced this is a neutral article (that's my opinion anyway).

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—the family that wants the trees felled or the residents who seem willing to put a child at risk? It's hard to tell. That's the dilemma of nut allergies. There are cases of real danger and real death. And then there's the huge circle of caution that often gets drawn around children when, rationally speaking, more modest precautions might do. If every school is already a nut-free zone, the felling of the Milford trees suggests that every block might become one, too. Is this a smart way to marshal our resources to avoid risk, even risk to children?

The rest of the article is here: http://www.slate.com/id/2146628/?GT1=8483

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Self: allergic rhinitis, fragrance/chemical sensitivities, oral allergy syndrome


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PostPosted: Wed Aug 02, 2006 5:23 pm 
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that's a very interesting article, brings up a lot of good points, maybe if there are more cases like this though people will be more educated about severe allergies, as well as having more people (eviornmentalists for example) begin thinking about putting money into research about allergies, causes, how to stop it because it is starting to effect the causes which are dear to them

but i think that there will always be certain people who just don't "get" it and think it's just over regulation or what have you, but with the growing number of children especially with speicfically the peanut allergy more and more steps are going to need to be taken... which is unfortunate for a peanut fiend such as myself, but i don't like it when someone takes my eviornmental and chemical allergies lightly so i've been trying to be more tollerant in general, and educting myself!


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PostPosted: Fri Aug 04, 2006 5:07 pm 
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Location: Canada
:roll: I'm keeping this article on file, though, because it expresses a common viewpoint . . .

as someone pointed out on the peanut allergy.com website, this article misquotes Dr. Hugh Sampson (he didn't say anything of the kind in Susan Dominus' article):

Quote:
As Susan Dominus wrote in a 2001 New York Times Magazine article on food allergies, quoting Dr. Hugh Sampson, the chief of the division of pediatric allergy and immunology at Mount Sinai Medical Center, "Hypochondria is a big problem in this area."


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PostPosted: Fri Aug 04, 2006 6:33 pm 
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Location: Gatineau, Quebec
If you read the comments that are on that site regarding the article, you'll see that it created quite a firestorm.

When I read articles like this and all the accompanying "letters to the editor" I just feel... tired. :(

K.

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Karen, proud Mom of
- DS1 (12 yrs): allergic to cashews, pistachios, Brazil nuts, potatoes, some legumes, some fish, pumpkin seeds; OAS
- DS2 (1o yrs): ana. to dairy, eggs, peanuts; asthma


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PostPosted: Fri Aug 04, 2006 8:15 pm 
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I agree as well with Storm - this particular writer isn't neutral. She purports to be and then goes on to tell her story of being inconvenienced by the allergies of her son's classmate. I'm intrigued by her general lack of awareness: she's obviously intelligent, and has enough information about allergy to mangle some of it.

She wants to embrace the story of the trees because it makes one wonder if Granny isn't just some selfish, tree-hating biddy using her grandson's nut allergy as an excuse to get a better view. It makes for a nice entrée to suggest that all parents of allergic kids are over the top.

In an odd way, I find this article instructive: it shows that even with all the attention given to allergies, awareness of the issues of anaphylaxis still has a long way to come.


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PostPosted: Sat Aug 05, 2006 10:29 am 
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Location: Toronto
gwentheeditor wrote:
It makes for a nice entrée to suggest that all parents of allergic kids are over the top.


Actually, I felt she didn't say that. She even admits that for some children it is necessary to go to what may appear to be extremes. She questions whether it is necessary to chop down a hickory tree because of a cashew allergy. It's a valid question, in my opinion.

Many people with peanut or nut allergies avoid all nuts due to the risk of cross contamination. These nuts were on the tree - therefore, no risk of cross contamination. If the child was tested, and tested positive, that's one thing. But, was it because of a cashew allergy, and if so, is that a reasonable accomodation?

I live in an area where the houses are attached. Do I have the right to demand that all my neighbours get rid of all their gardens and hanging baskets because it attracts bugs near my home?


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PostPosted: Sat Aug 05, 2006 9:19 pm 
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AM, Can't say I agree. I'm not defending the grandmother, I'm saying the hickory tree story is a convenient one - because it appears the grandmother may be being unreasonable.

The writer uses this rather rare incident to then move on to her own experience:

Quote:
At the risk of sounding heartless and bratty, though, let me try to make the case for better-calibrated, more-moderated responses to nut allergies. Parents who ask for more accommodation than their kids really need do a disservice, I think, by making the rest of us unsure of when we need to strictly comply. It's a form of crying wolf. Or at least that's how it has felt to me on occasion.


So I think she's using the hickory story - in its seeming unreasonableness - to make the case that those with allergies are all asking for too much.. Personally, I don't think most of us are.


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PostPosted: Sun Aug 06, 2006 6:23 am 
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Quote:
My children, who are 3 and 6, have somehow conditioned themselves to eat soy butter—it smells pretty vile to me, but they wolf it down and ask for more.

Lol, couldn't she just have said that they liked it? :roll:

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PostPosted: Sun Aug 06, 2006 1:52 pm 
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The main reason for the story is about the hickory tree, isn't it? A city chopped down the trees, and she is questioning whether it was necessary - or just convenient.

As for the part about her children - there is debate about whether it is necessary for an entire class of children to eliminate even trace amounts of an allergen in their snacks. She did not send peanuts or peanutbutter into the class. She sent in *may contain* items.

How often has a child had an anaphylactic reaction due to a class-mate eating a *may contain* item? I'm not sure if there are any documented cases of any child reacting in any way to a classmate eating a *may contain* item. For a person to question "Is this a necessary precaution or is it extreme" is understandable. Let's just accept the fact that there may be some children that are so sensitive that this is necessary for their survival. There are a lot more parents demanding this, then there could possibly be children that are that sensitive.

Even those of us with food allergies don't agree on what's necessary.

**********

I'm now thinking maybe I should go after my son's school. Force them to chop down the appe trees, get rid of the butterfly garden, and start mowing that no-mow area. Bugs. Bugs. Bugs. The fact that my son has not been stung at school - nor has he been bitten by anything that caused a serious reaction, those facts shouldn't matter because the potential is there.

Maybe I should demand they pave over the huge grassy area. They don't really need the soccor field or the two baseball fields or the shade from the trees. My son's safety should be the main concern.

Am I sounding extreme yet? Or do these demands seem reasonable to you?


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PostPosted: Sun Aug 06, 2006 5:33 pm 
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For the "may contain" items, my allergist has said that she feels for peanuts and nuts, for children grade 1 and under (where there is the possibility that they may end up ingesting the product either on purpose or by accident), they shouldn't be allowed in the classroom. For grade 2 and on, she feels that the kids are responsible enough to be okay with "may contain" items in the classroom.

And funnily enough, my husband and I came to that decision last year, when my oldest was in grade 2, before we even spoke with our allergist. We asked the parents of my son's classmates to not send in products containing actual peanuts or nuts (the school finally wrote a letter backing us up after I called the school board), but we said that we were okay with "may contains". My son never shares food (well, there was that one time when the teacher gave him candy... a story for another time), and I know his classmates are mature enough not to be offering him food.

So I agree that it is age-dependent. For younger kids, where there is a risk that a classmate or daycare friend might offer the food or the allergic child might pick up crumbs or be more likely to stick their fingers in their mouths, etc., it's not worth the risk. "May contains" could actually contain a trace of the allergen, and as we all know, sometimes it only takes a trace to cause a reaction.

I do think that we have to keep things in perspective. I guess the difficult thing for most parents is that none of us has a crystal ball that will tell us if our decisions are the right ones or not. I was kind of nervous about saying "okay" to "may contains" last year and even briefly wondered if I was being a bad (not-vigilant-enough) parent by doing so, but I realized that (a) my son was now older and better able to take care of himself and (b) it would open up the list of safe snackfoods for his classmates. And we had no reactions last year.

Anyway, this year it will be my youngest with dairy and egg in the classroom (we should be okay keeping out peanuts/nuts). They have snacks and lunch in there, and truthfully, my honest preference would be to have a classroom completely free of dairy and eggs, but I realize that is neither realistic nor fair. We do have milk and the occasional egg in our home, but that is with 2 kids and 2 adults. This will be a classroom with 20-25 children and 1 adult. Not such a good ratio for vigilance. And not all of those children will be neat eaters. A few weeks ago I watched the 4-year-old son of my brother's fiancee eat a cheese string at our house and he was smearing it all over the table, on the chairback, and in his hair. Not to mention his fingers. I almost hyperventilated watching him eat that cheese string -- partly because it was like having a cheese bomb go off at the table, and partly because I was thinking about my youngest being near a child like that in kindergarten -- and even my brother told his financee that there really shouldn't be any more dairy products for that kid on the visit.

But... we have to live in a community, and I know that there will have to be some give and take. I have always realized that there would be dairy and egg in my son's classroom. I just hope that the risk reduction measures we plan/hope to have in place, along with his ever-growing self-protection skills, will be enough to keep him safe.

Lastly, I think sometimes that requests from parents of FA kids might seem to come "out of the blue" to other parents. If they've never been exposed to severe FAs they really don't understand where we are coming from. I'm not defending those who are really obnoxious and say "too bad so sad" and just keep on doing what they're doing, but sometimes some context is needed too. I hope to do that this year by providing the parents in my youngest's class with a little booklet about his allergies (part life history and part allergy info)... if the school will let me. I'm hoping that it will show them how much we do to keep him safe, and how we aren't asking them to do all that much compared to what we are doing. I have no idea if my idea will work or not though.

So... some stream of allergic consciousness from me. :?

K.

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Karen, proud Mom of
- DS1 (12 yrs): allergic to cashews, pistachios, Brazil nuts, potatoes, some legumes, some fish, pumpkin seeds; OAS
- DS2 (1o yrs): ana. to dairy, eggs, peanuts; asthma


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PostPosted: Mon Aug 07, 2006 1:07 am 
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Location: Canada
I didn't like the article because I don't think it is about the particular examples cited . . . but is about whether "nut allergies are taking over the planet." The article doesn't contain any specific medical info. about nut allergies . . . and for such a short article there are a lot of errors. So she is raising a question---are accomodations parents/allergists are requesting for nut allergies "overbroad"?--but she isn't giving us any specific medical information that would help us to arrive at an informed decision about the question. Instead, she raises extreme examples (although I personally don't think that asking parents not to bring 'may contains' in elementary school is extreme) and suggests that most parents and doctors are 'crying wolf' by asking for needless accomodations.

Then . . . she blames allergic *parents* for her own annoyance with having to bring nut-free products into class. i.e. if she was sure that the accomodations were needed she would comply but because she isn't sure she is resentful.

To elaborate on the errors in the article:

1) misquoting Dr. Sampson (come on--how difficult is it to quote an article properly? it isn't like she is doing original research here!

2)
Quote:
The risk that a minor reaction could balloon into a major one is a little harder to determine, since you need to recheck the patient after each exposure.

This shows me that she *really* doesn't understand allergies. We all know that allergists can't predict who is going to have a major reaction and who is going to have a minor reaction.

If a kid at risk for anaphylaxis hasn't had a full-blown life anaphylactic reaction with face swelling, hives, throat closing up, vomiting, the works I bet this author will conclude that the doctor's recommendations would be "overbroad." She just doesn't understand allergies. And apparently, she isn't interested in researching the issue.


Last edited by Helen on Tue Dec 19, 2006 12:31 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Mon Aug 07, 2006 7:21 am 
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I felt that the point the author is raising is that of a local government, being fearful of litigation, is bowing to what she percieves as the whim of one person and the loss of rights and entitlements of other community members. Her thoughts wander all over from her personal dislike of soy butter, to her resentment over school snacks rules, to another city that banned internet *******.

I think she tried to research this article as she did interview the mayor and she appears to have read a New York Times article. In the end, I believe that she states she is unsure what to do and who to believe. While I can sympathise with that, I think this article is loaded with inacuracies, weak in it's arguments, meandering in it's thoughts and unprofessional.

Quote:
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.


Quote:
The mayor of Milford, James Richetelli Jr., said that the city decided to cut down the trees after the child's family produced a letter from a pediatrician. "Once we were put on notice of the allergy by the pediatrician, we didn't ask for any specific testing. We didn't think we had a right to. We took their word for it," he said.


Quote:
In legal terms, solutions like this one are called "overbroad." A town that passed a law banning Internet use to protect children from X-rated content on the Web would be rebuked by the courts for banning far too much permissible speech. It's pretty easy to see the costs in the speech arena. But when what's at stake is a child's safety and comfort, it gets harder to say that the cost of erring on the safe side, by banning more foods than may be necessary, is too high.


Quote:
It's never appealing to minimize mortality figures or contemplate a choice between a child and a tree. But if we can agree on that, can we also agree that doctors shouldn't issue overbroad precautions, that parents of food-allergic kids shouldn't exaggerate risk, and that cities shouldn't cut down trees without asking hard-nosed questions? We need to bend to accommodate allergies, for sure. But sometimes the trees can win.


[quote]It's never appealing to minimize mortality figures or contemplate a choice between a child and a tree...But sometimes the trees can win.[/quote] :shock:

Did she really just say we should choose the life of a tree over the life of a child?

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Daughter: asthma, allergies to egg, milk, peanuts, tree nuts, most legumes (not soy) & penicillin. Developing hayfever type allergies.
Husband: no allergies
Me: allergies to some tree that flowers in May
Cat: allergic to beef, pork and lamb


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PostPosted: Mon Aug 07, 2006 9:34 am 
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Location: Ontario, Canada / Cambridge, UK
Quote:
But it would be a lot easier to accommodate allergies graciously if I felt like I could tell the rationally neurotic parent with the extremely allergic kid from the crazy neurotic parent with the slightly allergic one. And I can't.


So EXACTLY what is the author's perception or definition of a "crazy neurotic parent" (a harsh choice of words, by the way)? The father that "asked" (I didn't read "demanded") her to take the "may contain" crackers home? Is she comparing that parent to the lady who insisted on getting the tree cut down? My point is, everyone has their own guidelines as to what a "neurotic" person is... so who's right?

It's become a vicious circle... the parents of allergic children are used to being treated as neurotic, obsessive... they are made to feel as they are overrreacting about some harmless hives. I'm sure they've gotten their share of "eye-rolling". So that parent becomes frustrated... and that frustration shows when they have to deal, yet again, with a parent who doesn't understand. They may become more forceful or insistent with their requests... and then it is perceived as being over-demanding, irrational, neurotic, obsessive... you see where the circle never ends? A little understanding on BOTH sides would go a long way.

Quote:
At the risk of sounding heartless and bratty, though, let me try to make the case for better-calibrated, more-moderated responses to nut allergies. Parents who ask for more accommodation than their kids really need do a disservice, I think, by making the rest of us unsure of when we need to strictly comply.


So what kind of response does the author wish for? That her school allow "may contains"? Is that it? Is that what's she complaining about? Or is it the extreme example of a whole tree being cut down? It's not clear in the article. But to imply that banning "may contains" is the same "rational" request as cutting down a tree is simply ridiculous.

The author should have focused on the issue of the tree. She did not need to use the article to vent about her own personal frustrations at her son's school. It only showed how unaware she is about the issue of allergies as a whole... and we all know you can't generalize it.

The article is riddled with inaccuracies (she even had to retract the part she wrote about Christina Desforges).

Quote:
The risk that a minor reaction could balloon into a major one is a little harder to determine, since you need to recheck the patient after each exposure.


The point here is that one NEVER knows what kind of reaction will be next so caution is always needed.

That article did NOTHING to raise positive awareness. The fact that it garnered enough attention for MSN to link it to its main page is frustrating enough... because it does all allergy suffers a disservice. A quick read of the discussion board and you will see words such as "whackjob", "draconian", etc. This is not the perception we need from the non-allergic public. Again, there needs to be understanding on BOTH sides, but this article is too one-sided and the people reading it will not be able to see or understand the other side of it.

Are nut allergies taking over the planet? No (and thankfully so, I suppose). If they were, there would be a LOT more awareness and it would be the number one priority. It is not... and we still have to deal with ignorant and irresponsible articles like these to perpetuate the image that people with allergies are all "crazy, neurotic" people.

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16-year-old son: peanuts, nuts, raw egg whites, asthmatic
Self: allergic rhinitis, fragrance/chemical sensitivities, oral allergy syndrome


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PostPosted: Mon Aug 07, 2006 11:44 am 
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Karen, may I make a suggestion for your son's school plan? It might be something that is already in your plan, but in case it's not, I just wanted to suggest it.

My son's school has a peanut/nut ban. They also have a *no share* policy. Children eat their own snacks - they are not allowed to share with their friend. This was strictly enforced in my son's kindergarten class due to one child that had multiple food allergies. His reactions had never been life-threatening, but they were serious enough that he would miss time at school if he ate his allergens. (peanuts, milk, and several fruit are the allergens I know of, but the list is longer then that)

I know this isn't 100% - kids don't always follow rules. But, by enforcing this rule with all the students, it reinforced it for the ones it was most important for (those with allergies/sensitivities).

Even now, my son is going into grade 3, and if he wants to share a treat, he has to wait until after school hours to do it. He sometimes puts a snack away, just so he can share with his best friend after school. He understands that it is because some kids have food allergies - this is discussed quite openly in class. Because this is how it has been since kindergarten there doesn't appear to be any bad feelings about it.

Also, to prevent a parent being upset about their child missing out on snack - my son's school keeps a box of safe crackers (as in safe for the pa child) in the school. When a child's snack is taken away because it contains peanut, the child is offered some crackers. It may not be as tasty, but, I think we all agree a child shouldn't be stuck going hungry because mom or dad made a mistake. The safe crackers are provided by the school - not by the parent of the child with food allergies.


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PostPosted: Mon Aug 07, 2006 5:49 pm 
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For those interested in the saga of hickory trees vs. grandmother, here's the link to the original NY Times story. Hope you can open it; I have an online login, which may be why it opens for me.

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/07/18/nyreg ... nd&emc=rss


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