Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Re-Branding Food Allergies

So Monday's post got off into the absurd...probably because I got depressed while writing it. It started out as a serious post about polarizing issues and how they relate to food allergies, and veered into science fiction.

It's easier to talk about ray guns than solutions. I did do a little reading about de-polarizing hot topics, just to see what the experts say. All of them tend to start with the same point:

Acknowledge the concerns of the other
side and admit where they are right

Hmm....

It's pretty easy to sum up the thing that the disapproving, polarized 50% say about the food allergy community:

"Most of them make up allergies"

This is where things get hot, and where I really earn my bitch title because...for the most part...I agree.

I am frankly tired of making the rounds of the chat boards and seeing mothers say things like "my Susie gets a stomach ache and the sniffles every time she drinks milk. How do I get a ban at my school?" And I'm tired of reading the laundry lists of allergies diagnosed by test only, handed to the mother who eliminates milk, soy, peanut, eggs, wheat, corn and rice without a blink.

One interesting thing I've realized about my blog: because I don't make money, I really can say whatever I want. Too many allergy magazines and chat boards have an ulterior motive: separate the frightened from their dollars, either through readership or direct product purchases. That means they have no interest in telling people their children really don't have food allergies. The more the merrier, and often the moms who are the most over the top are also the most likely to want all the bells and whistles (the magazine subscription, the medication bracelet) that come with a real diagnosis. 

Which brings me to re-brandingRe-branding is a wonderful strategy, employed by businesses that get into hot water. (The Enron name has too much baggage? Just rename it AEI!).  

My proposal is that we simply re-brand food allergies. Too many people have glommed on to the term to the point that it's the object of ridicule. 

Where before I might have said "my son has food allergies", I need to start saying something different from now on, like:

"My son has an immune disorder" 

or 

"My son has protein-induced anaphylaxis"

or 

"My son has a hyperimmune reaction that
causes swelling and wheezing"

Any of those work for you? I like the last one a lot because it's not as easy to appropriate by the moms who really do make this stuff up. Swelling and wheezing are a lot harder to fake than sniffles and phantom stomach pain.

I understand why food allergies are polarizing. A lot of people are asking a great deal of others (food bans, restricted activities, etc.) without any proof that their allergy is serious...or even real

The Emperors are clearly out there.

I honestly think the only hope we have of ever being taken seriously depends on dealing with the 23% of the population who believe they have a food allergy but who DON'T. 

Perhaps component testing will finally provide a way to tell people they're not wearing any clothes. 

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