Kids’ Food Allergies Aren’t Nuts

Photo by Carlo Mendoza

Despite recent coverage that says otherwise, it’s essential to be vigilant about food allergies in schools. In a don’t-do-what-I-did narrative featured in the April 2010 issue—available on newsstands March 15th—CF‘s editor-in-chief Jen Reynolds tells the story of how she discovered her son has a life-threatening allergy to peanuts:

I was sitting in the hairdresser’s chair when I first read the story. I was getting a full head of high and lowlights done, so I brought copies of the December 2009 issue of Chatelaine and a new issue of The New Yorker, and set a challenge for myself to see if I could get through every word before I was blonde again. It was halfway through when my face turned beet red and the colourist stopped quickly, wondering if I was having some kind of allergic reaction to the hair dye. It turned out I was having a reaction to Chatelaine’s story about food allergies, specifically peanut allergies—a subject very close to my heart.

For anyone who hasn’t read the piece, its author, Patricia Pearson, accuses parents of overestimating and overreacting to the threat that food allergies pose to children. She questions the prevalence of peanut allergies, the accuracy of allergy tests and the decision to make schools peanut-free. Basically, in a whiny I’m-hard-done-by-because-my-son-who-is-a-picky-eater-can’t-bring-a-PB&J-sandwich-to-school tone, she manages to offend everyone with a life-threatening food allergy—and those who care about people with that condition.

Not surprisingly, the magazine’s website has 629 comments responding to the article, most of them condemning the piece from parents of anaphylactic kids. (According to Statistics Canada, close to 90,000 kids are allergic to peanuts.) On cbc.ca, a well-crafted, fact-filled response from Allergic Living magazine’s editor Gwen Smith solicited another 263 comments echoing a similar disdain for the Chatelaine article. Pearson’s account, says Smith, “skewers the hard-won accommodations in schools to protect food-allergic children, confuses facts and statistics, and never pauses to speak to a principal or a parent of a child who has experienced anaphylaxis, the most serious form of allergic reaction.”

As a mom of a school-age son with an anaphylactic peanut allergy, I agree with Smith and find Pearson’s comments disheartening, irresponsible and dangerous.

To read how Jen discovered her son’s allergy, the mistakes she and her husband made when treating it and what she’s learned as a result, click here.

This article and other hot button topics including infidelity, teaching morality in schools, sex, lying to your kids and how TV and video games are actually good for your kids are all in the April 2010 issue on newsstands March 15th.

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