Posts Tagged ‘ food allergies ’

City Kids Are More Prone to Food Allergies, But Less So in NYC

Friday, June 8th, 2012

When I was 15, I told my mom that I planned to move to New York City one day. I had just returned from a trip to the city with my grandparents, and I was in love with the place. I  grew up in Columbus, Ohio, surrounded by family; none of them had ever left Central Ohio, and I was determined to go against the grain. I don’t remember what she said in response, but I’m sure that it started with, “Oh, Heather…”

Thirteen years later, I made good on my promise and relocated from Washington, DC, to New York City. (I moved to DC right after college for a job.) We’ve lived here for about 8 years now, and I honestly can’t imagine living anywhere else.

Sometimes I get a lot of sh-t for raising my kid in the city. For some people, particularly outsiders, the negatives (high cost of living, massive crowds, and constant noise) are a deal breaker. But if you actually live here the advantages (fabulous culture, exquisite food, world-class art, fascinating people, and incredible opportunities) far outweigh the annoyances, at least in my opinion.

And now there’s another reason to love living in this city versus another:  Although a new study just came out saying that city kids are more prone to food allergies (9.8 percent of them have food allergies versus 6.2 percent kids in rural areas), New York City isn’t a hot zone.

According to an article on MSNBC, children living in the District of Columbia, as well as cities in Nevada, Florida, Georgia, Alaska, New Jersey, Delaware, and Maryland, have the highest rates of food allergies.

In the report, study researcher Dr. Ruchi Gupta, an assistant professor of pediatrics at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, said that the finding means that there may be some factors that come with city living that predispose children to food allergies. Possible culprits include pollutants and processed foods, according to the report. Furthermore, bacteria found in rural areas may protect children against allergies.

I’m thrilled that NYC kids are getting a bit of a break on this one. After all, they’re at higher risk for asthma, particularly if they’re a minority. Do you live in a city in one of the states cited in this study? If so, does your child have a food allergy?

Photo: City kids via BlueOrange Studio/

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New Treatment for Serious Food Allergies: Is It Too Risky?

Friday, March 9th, 2012

Does your child have a life-threatening food allergy? Researchers at Johns Hopkins University and Duke University are aiming to make it much less serious–and, ideally, eradicate it. They’re currently testing whether “sublingual therapy,”  in which tiny amounts of the allergenic substance–such as milk–are placed under the patient’s tongue, could desensitize the body enough to allow it to move on to “oral immunotherapy,” in which the patient swallows small amounts of the substance.

According to, “The results suggested that children who went through a year of sublingual therapy followed by one to two years of oral immunotherapy were less likely to have significant allergic reactions when undergoing the oral immunotherapy. Still, it did not eliminate all symptoms.” In fact 20 percent of the kids that the researchers work with have “significant reactions during the treatment that make the therapy unfeasible.”

Mason does not appear to have any serious food allergies, but the thought of him being exposed to a substance to which he had a life-threatening allergy, even in a controlled setting like a doctor’s office, terrifies me. I’m not so sure that I’d be willing to allow him to try the treatment, even if it were to be proven safe, because too many “what ifs” would be running through my mind.

But maybe that makes me a selfish parent? Or perhaps just a parent that doesn’t really know what it’s like to have a child with a dangerous food allergy.

After all, there’s tremendous value to desensitizing your child to a food that he or she is dangerously allergic to–you wouldn’t have to worry that her next bite of food would kill her. A peanut butter cookie or Cheerio would be just a tasty snack. An ice cream cone on a hot day would be a sweet way to cool off, not a scary risk. Cake with egg in it would be a treat, not a threat.

What do you think? Would you let your child try this treatment if it were to be proven safe?

Photo: Child eating ice cream via Monkey Business Images /Shutterstock

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Are Peanut Butter Cheerios a Bad Idea?

Wednesday, January 11th, 2012

Peanut butter and Cheerios are two kid favorites, but some parents don’t think they belong together. In a recent interview Gina Clowes, founder of Allergy Moms, said that some parents are opposed to the new Multi Grain Cheerios Peanut Butter cereal, because they are worried that the popular toddler snack could accidentally fall into the hands of a peanut-allergic child. Although there’s an allergy warning on the box, it’s difficult to see the difference between peanut butter Cheerios and regular Cheerios.

“It has become the norm to have toddlers walking around with bags of cereal to snack on,” she told the The Washington Post. “Toddlers are notoriously messy eaters. It [would] be difficult to distinguish this variety from ones that are ‘safe’ and one misplaced peanut butter Cheerio can cause a serious reaction.”

My child doesn’t appear to be allergic to peanuts, but I can absolutely sympathize with Clowes and the other moms of the estimated 8 percent of American children who have food allergies. Peanut allergies terrify me–so much so that Mason only recently tried peanut butter because my mother-in-law accidentally gave it to him. Last week’s horrible story about Ammaria Johnson, the 7-year-old Virginia girl who died at school of an anaphylactic reaction, suspected to be caused by peanuts, still haunts me.

What’s the best solution here? I’m torn. I don’t think it’s right to boycott peanut-butter containing snacks, but I know first-hand how easy it is for peanut-containing snacks to get into schools. Mason’s daycare is a “peanut-free zone”–there are signs posted everywhere–yet parents still bring peanut butter treats into their child’s classroom. And every time we have a play date Mason and his little buddies delight in sharing snacks.

What do you think? Should parents boycott peanut-butter containing snacks? Should schools come up with stricter rules about what foods can and cannot be brought into schools? Or is it up to parents to manage what their kids eat?

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Trying Peanut Butter for the First Time — By Accident!

Monday, January 2nd, 2012

Peanut butter has been the one thing I’ve been afraid, no terrified, to give Mason. Our pediatrician told me (again) at our last appointment that it was fine to give him peanut butter now that he’s 16-months-old, but I’ve still been too chicken. My fear is totally irrational. We don’t have any peanut butter allergies in our family, but I made the mistake of Googling peanut allergies and reading horror stories about it and totally freaking myself out. So I hadn’t planned on giving Mason peanut butter any time soon — and then my mother-in-law accidentally gave him a peanut butter cookie last week.

Mason’s first introduction to peanut butter came at the worst possible time. We were in Chris’ small West Virginia hometown visiting family over the holidays, and Bug had spent the better part of the morning screaming. He had woken up with a 102-degree fever and a nasty cold, and he clearly felt terrible. I had finally gotten him calmed down after a dose of Motrin–he was in his high chair coloring–so I decided to make him some lunch. I was preparing steamed veggies and a grilled cheese sandwich when I heard my sister-in-law, who knows about my peanut butter fears, say, “I don’t want you to freak out but that’s peanut butter.” I froze and then turned around and saw Martha looking at Chris. Mason was sitting next to them, happily nibbling on a cookie that my MIL had given him (she thought it was a molasses cookie). Wait, what?! Mason’s eating a PEANUT BUTTER cookie? Chris took the cookie away from him since he had already eaten half of it (the pediatrician said to just give him a little bit the first time), and I hovered next to him for 30 minutes and watched him for signs of an allergic reaction.

Fortunately, Mason didn’t have any kind of allergic reaction to the peanut butter. In fact, he seemed to love the cookie. Ironically it was the first thing he had really eaten all morning since he felt so crummy. I jokingly thanked my MIL for giving him the peanut butter since I probably wouldn’t have had the courage to do it until he was 10-years-old, but I was definitely freaked out about it for the rest of the day. I felt grateful that he didn’t have an allergic reaction. Chris’ hometown is tiny and the medical care there is pretty limited. Remember, we live in NYC, home to some of the best doctors and hospitals in the country, and I’ve been afraid to give him the stuff here!

How did you introduce peanut butter to your babe for the first time?


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Should Highly Allergenic Foods Be Served at Daycare?

Thursday, November 17th, 2011

A friend of mine is sending her daughter to daycare for the first time next month. Her 13-month-old will attend an excellent school in New York City, and while my friend is excited about this new milestone in her daughter’s life, she has some concerns about mealtime.  The school makes all the food in-house and sometimes the meals contain shellfish and other highly allergenic foods. The school’s director advised my friend yesterday to introduce those foods to her daughter before school starts so that she could spot any food allergies in advance.

My first reaction when I heard this news last night was, Woah, what?!  I could understand why a daycare’s administrators would want to be vigilant about a student’s possible food allergies  — but what right does a daycare have to press parents to give their kids highly allergenic foods within a certain time frame? Even the experts don’t go there. A recent study found that introducing highly allergenic foods to your child before six months of age doesn’t appear to increase the incidence of eczema or wheezing in either infancy or later childhood, but I still haven’t heard an expert say that a child must (or even should) try highly allergenic foods by a specific time. (Thank God, because I still don’t have the guts to give Mason peanut butter.)

Of course, I’m sure the school would work with my friend. If she really doesn’t want her daughter to eat certain foods at school then perhaps they could serve her daughter an alternate menu. At Mason’s school, for example, parents receive weekly menus ahead of time and we’re able to let the teachers know if there’s a food that we don’t want our child to eat. Peanuts are strictly prohibited from the premises, although some shellfish is served, which parents can request that their child avoid. (A separate high chair is available for children with allergies or for children who follow a vegetarian or gluten-free diet.) Additionally, if a child is a picky eater then her parent has the option of bringing an alternative lunch and or breakfast for her.

But, ultimately, my friend’s dilemma makes me wonder whether daycares should even serve highly allergenic foods in the first place. There are so many other options out there — why even go there, particularly in classrooms that are filled with 1- and 2-year-olds? What do you think? Is it unwise for daycares to incorporate shellfish and other allergens into their menus? Or should parents just be prepared to give their child those foods before they start in a classroom where solids are served?

PHOTO: Crab Cakes — A don’t in daycare?

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