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CDC study finds 3 million other Big Guys out there

Submitted by on Wednesday, 22 October 2008 No Comment

This is Big Guy’s life:

  • He’s had cake at a birthday party only once other than at a celebration for him or his brother. And that was because a friend took extra pains to include him.
  • For the first two months of school he ate alone every day at his peanut-free table, taking a rash of crap from older kids until the principal joined him once in a show of support. He now has a regular lunch companion — a little girl who wears a MedicAlert bracelet. I’m happy he has company but sad another kid has to go through this.
  • I nearly took his head off last weekend as he was about to pop a cracker in his mouth. It looked like a normal Ritz but turned out to be the roasted vegetable variety — which has garlic as an ingredient. He rarely slips like that. But he’s 5, and it’s inevitable.
  • He nearly died when he was 10 months old after eating a few bites of a casserole containing egg.

We’re not asking for sympathy. It’s simply the way things are for Big Guy and 3 million other children in the United States, according to a report the Centers for Disease Control released this morning. Their ranks have grown 18 percent in the past decade, according to the report.

At least it’s a manageable condition. Millions of other children have far more serious health problems than Big Guy.

But it’s serious enough, which is why I’m thrilled to see Google alert after Google alert beep in this morning with yet another link to coverage of the report. I don’t even mind the annoyance of deleting them all.

Whether Big Guy and his 3 million friends will outgrow their allergies is the subject of much recent research and debate. There are encouraging studies indicating that peanut allergies, which tend to cause more violent reactions, ease more often than experts used to think.

But still other research shows that children with multiple food allergies — Big Guy’s up to six — are less likely to have problem-free adult lives.

Food-allergic kids also are more likely to have asthma, eczema and airborne allergies, the CDC report says. Big Guy’s hitting two for three there, but only because he hasn’t been airborne tested yet. The morning sniffles tell me it’s coming, though.

So what do I hope will come as a result of the CDC report?


The type that led a woman at the ballpark this summer to refuse to give Little Guy, who in a twist Big Guy takes personally is not allergic, the peanut he tried to charm her out of. “Someone in your family could be allergic,” she said.

Contrast that to a bunch of 20-somethings later in the season who scattered shells over our seats when we got up for a restroom run. Sloppy ballpark tradition, maybe. But one the led to much scrubbing on my part. Too bad the women had left by then and didn’t get to see it.

I hope for the type of understanding that leads hosts to say, “sure, no problem!” when I tell them I have to bring Big Guy’s food for their party. Contrast that to people who have huffed up and asked, “Why can’t he just eat what I’m making?”

I hope for the type of understanding the leads an airline to go peanut-free and mean it — United — rather than parse words with a disingenuous “we don’t serve peanuts.” American told me that a few years ago, even though the snack boxes on our flight included peanuts. I suppose they had me on a technicality — they weren’t serving them; they were selling them.

I want food manufacturers — and the federal Foot-Dragging Administration — to understand that I need to know every ingredient in a product, not just the ones they feel like telling me about.

And I hope for the type of understanding that led not a single parent to squawk this year when Big Guy’s teacher and I decided it would be safer for him if snacks in his classroom were peanut-free. After all the stories I’ve read this fall about parental complaints about peanut-free schools, I’m deeply grateful.

Copyright 2008 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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