LA Times Columnist Joel Stein had a piece in yesterday’s paper claiming (based on his opinion and about an NPR-listener level of information) that peanut allergies are an invention of rich white people because said people just want to feel “special.”
Now let me tell you, I am as happy to gang up on rich white people and their narcissistic parenting styles as anyone, but my daughter’s good friend–an African American friend, a member of a population Stein claims doesn’t have serious issues with peanut allergies–has been to the ER 3 times in four years after accidentally eating something with peanuts. She might well have died on at least one of those occasions if not for her father’s quick epi-pen action.
I know that one example does not break a rule of thumb and perhaps it is true that there are fewer peanut allergies found among racial minorities and the poor. But perhaps that is because racial minorities and the poor–as another rule of thumb–have crappy access to healthcare. And I am more than willing to buy the idea that most allergic reactions don’t lead to death, and poor people suffer allergic attacks and deal with them at home, because they can’t afford to see an allergist for a round of testing.
I myself have food allergies that cause anaphylactic shock. But every single incidence of exposure to the allergen won’t kill me. It’s more a case of Russian roulette: maybe 12 times out of 13 I’ll survive an attack with mere discomfort and anxiety (which I don’t doubt makes the attack worse) but there is no real way to know if this time will be the 13th time, and I’ll be dead in minutes.
Because I know how serious these allergies can be, I have a peanut-free household. We don’t go to the extreme of banning things “made in a factory that also manufactures foods containing peanuts” but I have switched out my peanut oil for soy oil; my peanut butter for cashew butter, because when my daughter’s friend visits I don’t want her getting another epi-pen, ER visit, or god forbid, 13th allergic reaction on my watch.
“Peanuts: Serious Allergen or Good-Old-Fashioned Americana?” is not a proper topic for an “opinion” piece. We don’t get to vote on whether or not such allergies exist. Peanut allergies are real and even if they only cause death as often as a lightening strike, they cause enough pain and suffering short of death to be taken seriously by those lucky enough not to have them.