NoPeanutsPlease is an independent blog.

All views, opinions and conclusions are solely those of the author and do not imply endorsement or recommendation by any other party.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Blog Interrupted

Not long after our daughter was diagnosed with anaphylaxis, I began talking to Anaphylaxis Canada (AC) about joining the team. This week I was happy to receive news that I have been appointed as a Director on the Anaphylaxis Canada board.

I have tried to adopt AC’s pragmatic and balanced approach when managing our daughter’s severe food allergy, both at home and in our community. After spending the past nine years on charitable boards, (most recently six years with Covenant House Vancouver), I am excited to offer my skills, energy and passion for the cause of food allergy and anaphylaxis, to Laurie Harada and her so-called ‘A-Team’.

As an Anaphylaxis Canada Director from British Columbia, I will focus on the development of a local presence in this province. In 2007 the BC Ministry of Education passed the “British Columbia Anaphylactic and Child Safety Framework” and the next step is to support those who will implement this important ministerial order.

My involvement with Anaphylaxis Canada will also include writing a column about our experiences as parents (details forthcoming). Unfortunately I will not have the bandwidth to author a column, become involved in British Columbia and author this blog, so NoPeanutsPlease will be offline for the forseeable future.

During the past 18 months you have visited the blog almost 12,000 times and enjoyed almost 200 posts. I thank you for your support and encouragement! It’s been a fabulous experience and has truly helped me in our journey as parents managing anaphylaxis.

Though I am disappointed to interrupt NoPeanutsPlease just as it was gaining significant momentum, I am very excited to be in a position to make an even greater contribution to the food allergy and anaphylaxis community.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Rhode Island Relaxes Peanut Ban

The state of Rhode Island has voted to relax a ban on peanut butter in schools. The good news is that the peanut ban is being replaced by a law whereby "affected schools would be required to develop policies that provide a safe environment for students with peanut/tree nut allergies."

As the parent of a child who is allergic to eggs and dogs, (in addition to peanuts), I wonder why Rhode Island's legislators did not expand the bill to provide protection for all students with severe food allergy or anaphylaxis. They could have followed the lead of several other states.

NoPeanuts Poll: Bullying

The most recent NoPeanuts poll asked "Has your child ever been bullied at school due to his/her food allergy?". Interestingly, 56% of the 41 respondents have children who are pre-school age, so of course this poll does not apply. For the 44% of readers who have school-age children, there is a 50-50 split between those who have and have not experienced bullying.

A new poll is now up: "Do you belong to a food allergy support group?"

Monday, May 5, 2008

Peanut Allergy 'Gone' In 5 Years? ... not likely

Last week Dr. Wesley Burks was quoted as saying that immunotherapy could help peanut allergic patients by increasing their tolerance to peanuts.

In 2007, Dr. Burks' team at Duke University reported that "five of seven children with severe peanut allergy were able, after two years of immunotherapy, to tolerate a dose of 7.8 grams of peanut flour, equivalent to eating more than 13 peanuts ". Last week Dr. Burks noted that "these studies offer the possibility of at least raising the threshold of the amount of peanut that it would take to cause a life-threatening allergic reaction; whether these types of treatments are likely to cause eventual clinical tolerance to develop remains to be seen."

The media has run with this story under headlines such as "Peanut Allergy Gone in Five Years?" or "Allergy Expert Says Expect Cure For Peanut Allergy In Five Years".

While tolerance to 10+ peanuts would absolutely make peanut allergic children safer, and likely prevent fatalities, these headlines are misleading and will raise false expectations with parents of allergic children. When I first saw the headlines I couldn't click through to the story fast enough!

These studies are important and we are actually exploring peanut immunotherapy for our daughter, as it reduces the risk of exposure to a small amount of the allergen. The difference between a fraction of a peanut and 13 peanuts is significant when a child has severe peanut allergy and anaphylaxis.

That being said, while immunotherapy holds great promise as a treatment, it is not a complete 'cure' for peanut allergy and I cannot imagine that peanut allergy will 'gone' in five years.

Friday, May 2, 2008

NoPeanuts On Charles Adler

Today I was interviewed on the Charles Adler show which is syndicated across Canada. Here is the link to the recording. (It will be on the site for 30 days and you will need to select 2pm on May 2, 2008.)

The interview went well. Charles asked several good questions and he was well prepared on topics ranging from Wesley Burks comments this week, to the Kentucky student being charged with wanton endangerment, to Trace Adkins comments on the Apprentice.

I actually took calls from listeners this time around which was new for me.

I am very glad that this issue is being well received. Charles noted today that he definitely learned something new from our conversation. I hope that his listeners found the interview insightful as well.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

NoPeanuts On The Air

This week NoPeanutsPlease was quoted in a Globe & Mail article covering bullying and food allergy. As a result of the quote, we have been interviewed several times on the radio. My wife was interviewed on CBC radio in BC on Tuesday evening and I was on Corus in Alberta yesterday. Laura Bantock of Kamloops, also quoted by the Globe & Mail, was interview by CBC radio in the interior of BC.

I am also scheduled to be on the nationally-syndicated Charles Adler show tomorrow at 12pm PDT on Corus.

If you would like to listen to my interview on Corus Alberta the recording will be online for the next 30 days. To hear it, select the specific hour on the site: April 30, 2008 at 11am. (I am on the air about 10 minutes into the hour.)

I appreciate the media's interest in this story! It is important that people are aware of this issue.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

NoPeanuts In The Globe & Mail

NoPeanuts was quoted in a Globe & Mail story about bullying. The story ran today and my comment was in relation to the case in Kentucky: "This is a pretty groundbreaking case," said Vancouver father Jeff Smith, who runs a blog called No Peanuts Please, through which parents have been swapping bullying tales after hearing of the case. "In some ways it's harsh. But it is an issue and it's becoming more well-known."

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Bullying And Food Allergy ... cont'd

Here is some additional perspective from the mother of the child that was featured in the recent ABC news story about food allergy bullying.

The more I think about bullying and food allergy, the more convinced I become that these young bullies simply do not appreciate the risk associated with their actions. I suspect that the majority of these kids would be out of the spelling bee if they were given the word 'anaphylaxis'! Huh?

Bullying is about intimidation and gaining power over another person. It would appear to me that bullies do not intend to cause a fatal reaction in a food allergic child. Instead it appears that bullies frequently prefer to inflict their tactics "repeatedly and over time".

As a parent I know that in many cases a blended approach of 'carrot' and 'stick' are needed to mold proper behaviours. An example of the carrot approach would be telling your child that if she behaves herself then she will get a sticker. The (metaphorical) stick approach would be demonstrated by telling the child that bad behaviour will result in a timeout in the corner.

This same approach could apply to bullying.

Improved education and awareness as to the severity of anaphylaxis will help most kids understand the risks associated with food allergy bullying. Most children feel good about knowing that they can help make allergic kids safer (ie: the carrot approach).

Unfortunately, there will also be a group of bullies that need a deterrent. For these kids the police charges in Kentucky last week would serve as the metaphorical 'stick'.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

NoPeanuts Poll: Changes To The Food Supply

In my last poll I asked you what you thought was the major factor in the increase in peanut allergy incidence. 41% of you think that it is changes in the food supply, not improved diagnosis and not the hygiene hypothesis.

A new poll is up.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Bullying And Food Allergy

It is interesting that the criminal charges laid this week in Kentucky comes just after an article on bullying by ABC. The article featured a case of bullying where a girl had an apparent reaction to the smell of a peanut butter cup that was opened in her vicinity. (The prevailing wisdom is that it takes an airborne particle to cause an 'odor reaction', though the odor of a peanut has been shown to cause a psychosomatic response.)

The article noted that the incidence of bullying is rising, though bullying is nothing new. In my school days I do not recall ever encountering food allergy, though bullying and intimidation were just something you dealt with. When most people think of bullying they conjure up images of physical conflict, though (as noted in the article) verbal abuse can be more serious.

Allergic Living recently wrote an article about children with food allergy developing anxiety. I surmise that bullying can help foster that anxiety.

Here are two cases in point. The VanEssendelft children in the ABC report, both of whom have peanut allergy, have been subjected to stressful situations:

  • Sarah, 14, grew up with a group of girls that "attended birthday parties and play dates and had always kept a careful eye out for peanuts. Yet, still, the girls tried to test her allergy." Recently, however, these girls did not believe that her reaction to the odor of the peanut butter cup was real, so they decided to make a statement in the lunchroom by organizing a 'peanut party'. Thankfully a friend tipped Sarah off about the plan, telling her that the girls were bringing "everything peanut they can find, to watch your face blow up".
  • David, 13, recently had a "kid in the locker room say, 'I'm going to put peanut butter on the ball and I'm going to serve it to you so you have to set it,'". Apparently peanut jokes are common from this kid and he has said he wants to see David use his auto-injector.

Kids can be harsh. Clearly they do not appreciate the risks associated with severe food allergy and anaphylaxis.

The article also quoted Anne Munoz Furlong, founder and CEO of FAAN. "Whenever we talk about kids with food allergies in schools, their friends are a huge influence and can keep them safe. We have very often had teenagers tell us that their friends are their body guards, their friends are their eyes and ears."

The teen years are hard enough. A food allergy adds another level of complexity. Though it would be difficult to go through school facing these issues, I would also suspect that a certain resiliency, responsibility and strength of character could develop as a result.

While others can certainly provide support and assistance, the allergic individual is ultimately the one responsible for managing their own allergy. Best wishes to all of the Sarahs and Davids out there.