Skip to main content

When Food-Allergy Mortality Smacks You Upside the Head

Yes, I know about the latest death in our community. I started a long screed here about all of my favorite hobby horses:
  • The dangers of giving global medical advice over the internet (yes, I'm looking at you, web sites who are telling everyone to start giving epinephrine even before symptoms)
  • The nastiness of assuming this child's family has lost their right to privacy because they've experienced a tragedy (yes, I'm looking at you, web sites who continually stir the pot for internet traffic)
  • The danger of wallowing in the very rare, worst-case scenario and the impact it can have on our ongoing anxiety disorders (which, admit it, we all have at this point)
But really...writing about all that is just my way of avoiding something we all do not want to think about:
Some kids die and there's nothing we can do about it
The father was a doctor, for heaven's sake! He was right there. He treated her based on his training and experience. I have no doubt he did the best job he could do, probably that anyone could do. And yet she died. The medical community is aware of a hard truth: some cases of anaphylaxis are simply refractive to epinephrine. Sometimes there is nothing that can be done.

And yet, we are all nit-picking the situation apart, hoping to learn something new from it.

I cannot imagine the grief of this family. But I can certainly project that grief onto my own situation if I allow myself to do it.

Excellent article about how
not to say the wrong thing
while someone is coping
with illness or loss
I heard an interesting term the other day: grief appropriation. I have a friend with cancer and I have been doing some reading about how to be supportive rather than annoying while she's doing chemo. This was one of the nuggets I learned: don't appropriate her grief. Don't put yourself in her spot. Don't empathize to the point that you are taking over the situation, and not allowing her to express the emotions she needs to express.

How much weirder is it to do this with someone we don't even know personally? To add to their burden by kvetching on the internet when we aren't even in their intimate circle?

Look: I've been writing about this for a year and a half now. If you want to wallow, I'm not going to be able to stop you. If you want to look up every web site, and imagine your child in her place, dead on the floor, it's your choice. But it doesn't help. It doesn't help. And those types of thoughts really can do physical and mental harm.

This is the part that makes me so angry about how these stories are handled on allergy web sites: they are never disseminated with balance. They should ALWAYS be framed with the statistics: only a handful of kids die from allergies each year.

It's odd to think that admitting some kids simply die can be a freeing thought...but it can. We cannot prevent all harm to our children. Whether it's the pedophile, or the car crash after prom, or the runaway food allergy reaction, there are things that just happenBUT THEY DON'T HAPPEN TO MOST CHILDREN. We take every sensible precaution...but then we have to let go.

By all means: review your medical plan. Challenge your doctor as to whether epinephrine should be administered if there is a known exposure to an allergen, especially if that allergen is tree nut or peanut, and especially if your child is an 11-16 year old girl (hormones seem to increase reaction severity in this group). But, once you're done, set it aside. Live your life.

Keep in mind: anxiety disorders kill too. No one likes to discuss it, but suicide is the third leading cause of death in adolescents, and anxiety is a significant risk factor for suicide. We have a responsibility as parents to achieve balance in our children's lives.

Unfortunately, balanced, responsible reports about food allergy deaths are as rare as the deaths themselves. If you do keep reading these stories, think about that word as you do so: balance. Does the source you are reading balance the presentation of the story with the general risk of death? Does it balance the privacy rights of the family with your need to know? Does it balance education about food allergy fatalities with education about anxiety disorders?

If it doesn't, why are you still reading it?

Follow me on Facebook or Twitter  

Popular posts from this blog

Best Food Allergy Tweets/Posts From 2013 ACAAI Meeting

Sorry, guys...I've been very busy the last couple of weeks, but just over a week ago one of the largest allergy and asthma conferences, the annual American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, was tweeting its brains out.

Here were the tweets and (virtual) presentations I thought were most interesting:

ACE inhibitors are often used to treat high blood pressure. I believe Lisinopril was the one specifically mentioned. This goes hand in hand with the idea that older patients, especially men, can see changes in the severity of their allergic reactions as they age.

Here's an answer on the question many of us asked about component testing. Just as with RAST, the number itself doesn't matter; just the positive result.

Gross! But yes, give your kids the bobber after the dog/ brother/ mailman licked it.

Conversely, tree-nut-allergic individuals have a 30% incidence of concurrent peanut allergy. 
So stop blaming yourselves, FA mommies! I've said this consistently - Mother Natur…

Taking The High Road With Food Allergies (Sometimes)

I was getting all ready to write a post about how grateful I am. You of those count-down-to-Thanksgiving posts where I list all the people or things that have helped me along the way.

And I am grateful. Really. Having virtual friends who have traveled this same food-allergy road is a wonderful gift. I can name so many times when my panic and frustration were alleviated by someone I've never even met in real life, but who took the time to give me a tip, or to console me.

But frankly, my lovely gratitude post went out the window when I received this email from a relative:

What can we bring to share? I have some ideas: Sweet Potatoes glazed with Chutney and Ginger, Green beans with Dijon and Caper sauce, Creamed Green beans with Dill sauce, or whatever you request.   I am aware of [FAB's son] dietary restriction.

My son is allergic to beans. We avoid all beans. Even green beans. The doctor was surprised by this, as green beans are the least allergenic of the bean family, b…

Beans, Beans and More (or Less) Allergenic Beans!

We have a little good news this week: my son passed a home bean challenge for both pinto and cannellini (white) beans last night. Hooray!

At our last allergist visit, they ran the numbers on a number of varieties of beans and many were Class 0, with values like 0.68. My son's doctor thought it was reasonable to try these at home.

Going to stop for a moment and interject: DON'T DO THIS WITHOUT YOUR DOCTOR'S DIRECTION. A lot of things go into whether home challenges are a good idea for your child: how serious the allergen typically is, how far the hospital, how experienced the parents are with recognizing reactions. Many doctors are not comfortable with this at all. But, in our case, it makes sense to do some challenges at home because my son tests slightly allergic to dozens of foods.

He has avoided all beans since around age five, when he started developing new allergies. First it was tuna. Then cashews. Then (to our great surprise), he suddenly became allergic to garbonzo be…