Friday, January 12, 2007

When Peanuts Attack: Peanut Allergy from a Different Point of View

My blog gets quite a few googlers searching for "Bond Testicle Torture," or "Danny Tourette is a Fake." One of the most popular searches leading here is "Torchwood is Gay" and I have no idea how that happened!

But by far and away, the most 'popular' post I have written was Why People with a Peanut Allergy Annoy Me.

I say 'popular' although that's subjective. Really, it's the 'most read' post I've written. Judging by some of the comments and emails I've got, some people don't find it very popular at all!

Luckily, most readers have taken the post in the spirit in which it was written and understand that no, I don't have an irrational hatred of people with a Peanut Allergy. Even if I don't get a packet of dry roasted with my G&T on the plane any more! As Jodi pointed out - we get pretzels instead and that's fine with me. They're much better for my waistline.

One curious email I got was from the author of new blog NoPeanutsPlease.

This is a blog started in the last days of 2006, when the author was forced to rush his daughter to hospital after she suffered a dangerous anaphylactic reaction to, of all things, a harmless cookie - part of a curiously American 'cookie exchange' with neighbours and friends.

I guess the motto's true - if you didn't bake it, you don't know what's in it. How horrible to think that a well intentioned neighbour might have inadvertently poisoned their friend's daughter merely by adding a few peanuts to the mixing bowl!

He described it as a 'formative experience.' A wonderful understatement, I'm sure!

Fortunately, all was well. However the experience inspired him to start a blog to educate other people about the dangers of a peanut allergy. If you know anybody who has a peanut allergy, I'd certainly recommend checking it out.

It's funny how our comments and opinions come full circle, though. In my original post, I was bitching that the rest of the world were now forbidden peanuts on airplanes because of the tiny minority who might suffer an allergic reaction.

This was a little unfair on my part, because the tin-can nature of an airplane does mean that the danger of exposing an sufferer is already greatly increased, even before you introduce three hundred packets of honey roasted nuts into the equation.

But at what point does consideration for other people's conditions become a burden?

Short of having prohibition on peanuts, there's no real way to protect people with peanut allergies from exposure. While the parents of allergic kids might praise the idea of banning peanuts altogether, that's unlikely to happen. Given the rate in which my wife scoffs down peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (another curiously American invention) or Reeses peanut butter cups, I'm pretty sure there'd be civil war if anybody suggested it.

Plus, what happens afterwards?

You ban peanuts to protect people with an allergy. What about then banning sugar to protect diabetics? They're already banning trans fat in New York city and halting advertising cheese on kids TV. If we ban everything that's 'bad' for us, it's not long before we'll all be living on nothing but 'regulation' gruel and water.

No, parents with peanut allergies can't expect much help from us regular folk. So it's up to websites and blogs like Nopeanutsplease to educate the rest of us about the challenges they face and hopefully, we'll be understanding and cooperative as best we can.


Anonymous said...

Hi Rolski ... this is a fair post. I totally concur that banning peanuts from the face of the earth is not the answer but there are certain places (e.g. airplanes) where it is not that big a sacrifice ... after all, you still get the double gin and tonic right? There are documented cases of people having anaphylactic reactions on planes from people eating nuts (e.g. LA Times, Jan 7, "From soap to nuts"). I think the answer lies somewhere in between. Good luck with your writing! I'll keep you posted on NoPeanuts activity ... great blog by the way!

Anonymous said...

Here is a sorry tale. How does one react to life after such an experience in the febrile crucible of youth.

Mycroft. Oxford

Anonymous said...

"Plus, what happens afterwards?

You ban peanuts to protect people with an allergy. What about then banning sugar to protect diabetics?" . . .

These are not equivalent. If sugar killed diabetics through air contact, then it would be, and I assure you that there would be a ban.

Peanut is among the few allergens that are: a) Extremely likely to cause anaphylaxis and b) Can do so in trace quantities (and for some, by inhalation, mostly in enclosed spaces such as airplanes).

The difference between a car and an airplane, even though both are enclosed, is that in the middle of anaphylaxis on the ground, a person has the opportunity to get to a hospital, making an airplane a far less safe environment than other enclosed spaces.

"Ban" is a loaded word. Asking other people to look within, past their selfishness, to cooperate to keep someone safe, is more like it. This is particularly important for children, who can't simply *decide* not to attend school or not stick their fingers in their mouths.