A Letter in Response to “The Nuts in Our Schools”

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This is in response to last month’s Annals of Medicine column by Dr. Reiser, “The Nuts in Our Schools.” [Crozet Gazette Vol. 4, No. 12, page 14]. As a medical professional and a parent of a peanut and egg allergic child, I was disappointed in this article’s general suggestion that peanut allergies are not serious, not on the rise, and are an issue overdone by some “nutty” parents. I do not think this was Dr. Reiser’s intent; however as a reader I wanted to counter some of his points.

I fed my son his first scrambled egg at nine months of age. This was followed shortly after by profuse vomiting, diarrhea, and widespread hives and swelling. After a trip to the emergency room, followed later to a trip to our pediatrician and then an allergist, our son was diagnosed with egg allergy, as well as peanut allergy. The peanut allergy was diagnosed based upon the huge welt that developed on his back after a skin prick test—about twice the size of the egg one.

Finding out that only 1/1000th of a peanut can cause a severe reaction has made us incredibly nervous parents. When our son tells us his stomach hurts, instead of wondering if he’s got a virus, we immediately start wondering what he may have eaten and if we’re about to see something bad happen.

Dr. Reiser brings up an important point that nobody really knows the true prevalence of peanut allergies in the US. However to say peanut allergies are rare and are not on the rise would be ignoring the world around us. I was one of those PB&J kids and never met a child with peanut allergies growing up. Here in Crozet, we personally know 5 other children with peanut allergy, and many more in Charlottesville. That is not a scientific study, I know, but it is real life.

Speaking of studies, a brand new article in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical demonstrated that between 1997 and 2008, the incidence of peanut allergy in kids has more than tripled. Dr. Reiser did say that most lethal food allergy reactions occur in kids with asthma. Guess what else in on the rise in children, doubling in incidence over the past 25 years? Asthma.

No studies are perfect, but it is impossible to ignore the growing problem of food allergies in our children. My wife and I humbly and gratefully appreciate all parents who have had to readjust what they send in their kid’s lunches because of peanut regulations. I know it may seem like a few parents are overreacting and causing a big fuss, but we can’t help it—we’re nuts about our kids!

John Andersen
Crozet

[See “More on Peanut Allergies” for Dr. Reiser’s response.]