Food Allergies: “Fluffy” Name Masks Real Danger

Lisa Hofmeister’s family had no history of food allergies. She was vaguely aware of concerns about kids and nuts, but never gave a thought to things like birthday party food.

A couple of years ago, Blake — then 3 1/2 — ate a peanut butter M&M. Two hours later, he was covered from head to toe in hives.

His Landmark Preschool teachers reacted calmly, quickly and professionally. EMTs used an EpiPen to control the reaction.

Since then, Lisa worries constantly about brownies and cupcakes. She reads the labels of every food item she buys.

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Blake — who is allergic to peanuts, pistachios and cashews — is handling things well. On Halloween, the 5-year-old asks everyone handing out candy if it contains any of those nuts.

Landmark is 100% nut-free. Kings Highway Elementary — Blake’s new school — has a nut-free cafeteria table.

Lisa is realistic. “Parents worry that their kid will get hit crossing the street,” she says. “This is just one more worry.”

She also knows that actions speak louder than words. So she’s gotten involved in Food Allergy Research & Education, an educational, research and advocacy organization.

On Saturday, September 24 (1 to 4 p.m.), FARE sponsors a fundraising, awareness and community-building program at Sherwood Island State Park. Besides a half-mile walk, there will be face painting, relay races, carnival games, arts and crafts, a magician and live reggae music.

Participants run at FARE's 2015 walk.

Participants run at FARE’s 2015 walk.

This is FARE’s only Connecticut event. Because it’s in our back yard — and free — Lisa hopes many Westporters will participate.

As a woman who never cared about food allergies until they struck home, Lisa knows that raising awareness is key.

It’s also hard.

“It’s scary that doctors don’t know what causes this, or why it’s increasing so rapidly,” Lisa says.

“It’s also too bad that this doesn’t have a scarier name. ‘Food allergy’ is fluffy. Maybe if it was called something different, more people would be more aware.”

(For more information — or to register for the September 24 event, or volunteer — click here.)


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12 responses to “Food Allergies: “Fluffy” Name Masks Real Danger

  1. Melissa Liguori

    Saugatuck has “nut tables” which I think works better. All other tables are nut free. My niece who has a peanut allergy used to have to sit apart from her friends every day and was miserable. Now those who “choose” to bring peanut butter must sit at different tables. To me this makes more sense since children with allergies did not “choose” their allergy.

  2. Some researchers / doctors do know what has contributed to the increasing frequency of food allergies and asthma – clean environments. Read studies about Israeli peanut allergies – they don’t really have. And the Amish of Indiana (don’t have asthma) and Hutterites of South Dakota (do have asthma).

    • Jerry MacDaid

      From what I’ve read, vaccinations for related diseases, making kids go out and play in the grass and dirt (and maybe roll around with cats and dogs) on a regular basis as soon as they can crawl, should probably be the recommended course to help prevent later allergies.

  3. Elizabeth Thibault

    FARE also supports a Halloween project that helps raise awareness about food allergies called the Teal Pumpkin project. It helps families identify houses that have safe, non-food options for children who do have allergies. I traditionally don’t give out candy because kids already get so much in their bags, that they enjoy the stickers, pencils, toys, and balloons that I’ve given in the past. Some homes have both types of options. It’s a simple thing to do to help identify safer options for those who do have children with allergies and who may not have children who are old enough to be aware of the dangers of some of their foods.

    Also, while food allergies may seem more prevalent, this may be a confluence of other circumstances like more testing and awareness. It’s not gone 0-60 within the space of a couple of years – this issue has existed. When I was in college, (23 years ago,) another student ate a bagel after a night out, unaware it was made with peanut oils, and passed away from his allergic reaction.

  4. This is not to denigrate anything good that FARE does, but it seems that Mylan Pharmaceutical is a big contributor. (Yes, THAT Mylan Pharmaceutical!)

    Also the website looks very much like a typical patient advocacy group set up to help market pharmaceuticals. For example, there are no articles on the home page pointing to ongoing research studies into causes and prevention — something you’d expect to find on a site for an organization truly focused on research.

    Keep in mind that if research succeeded in reducing the incidence of anaphylaxis, it would hurt the bottom line of a company so focused on it, that it jacked up the price of a vital, lifesaving drug 10 times since they bought it. So I doubt that Mylan would pour a whole lot of money into that kind of research, as they do not seem to have a major concern for the public interest.

  5. Please look at FARE’s press release page re: Mylan EpiPen cost hikes. If this were truly an independent patient-centered organization, wouldn’t you expect some criticism of Mylan’s actions? Nothing of the sort here!

    • Mylan is reaping monopoly rents because the government gave them a monopoly and now protects that monopoly. Do you think the fact that the CEO’s father is a Democrat senator might help Mylan stifle competition ?

      • Michael, a little more complicated than that: epinephrine is a generic drug, so Mylan does not have a monopoly. Epi-Pen is just a better delivery system and based on that, it’s been able to secure a dominant market share, while rivals have so far failed to build a comparable injector that meets FDA standards.

        You are correct that Mrs. Bresch is the daughter of a Democratic U.S. Senator — and her background is in political lobbying, not science.

        In fact, Obama signed a bill requiring schools to stock the Epi-Pen.

        But Republicans are just as guilty as Democrats of getting in bed with the pharmaceutical industry.

  6. This is a fun event! I’m looking forward to a day supporting FARE which has done so much to make the world safer for our kids in terms of food allergy awareness, practices at school, travel safety, dining out and so much more. Grateful.

  7. Interesting story here:
    Epi-Pen was actually developed for the military by a small defense contractor. The inventor was a former NASA scientist. Neither the inventor nor his employer made a whole lot money on the invention, apparently.