Saturday, February 25, 2012

Allergies

I received the second communication in about a week from a grandmother whose grandchildren have peanut allergies. Each one wrote about the necessity of carrying two epipens, benadryl, cell phones for calling the ER's, and the constant worry and panic of both the parents (their children) and their own concerns.

Lita Cohen, retired member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives and a friend of mine from Lower Merion High School, founded the Food Allergy Research Initiative to determine the cause of food allergies and allergens and develop effective treatments. This will undoubtedly be a very long process with multiple steps to induce allergies in animals, isolate the immune cells, change the immune cells in some way and then introduce the changed immune cells into allergic animals. Sounds like a very worthwhile, but very long-range project.

Meanwhile, what to do.

I am 72 years old and have had allergies my entire life. My poor mother had the pediatrician at our house every week (in the olden days, the doctors made house calls) because I had developed a different rash in a different place. I eventually outgrew the rashes, but I still had allergic reactions to food and airborne particles. I even had allergy shots for 5 years, never improved my tolerance to the allergens and had to have adrenaline twice because of my bad reactions to the allergy shots.

The worst offenders were tobacco smoke and the smell of nuts and buckwheat. Tobacco smoke was such a problem that we couldn't fly in an airplane until the US declared smoking was forbidden on flights, couldn't go to a theater because at intermission, when the patrons went outside to light up, the tobacco smoke drifted back into the theater and sent me into asthma. Most, unimaginable of all, we couldn't even go on the beach because, if someone lit up in Longport, and we were on the beach in Ventnor, the tobacco smoke made it right to my chair. Nowadays, second hand smoke is much less of a problem because smoking is either illegal, or greatly curtailed.

I have learned how to manage my many food allergies in a very simple way - if I don't make it, I don't eat it. At first, people were offended when I refused to even sample any delectable offered to me. I explained I was not being rude, just very careful. When we are invited out to eat, and there is no way to politely get out of the invitation, I insist on a dish of plain lettuce leaves - and I emphasize, no dressing, no salt, no lemon, no pepper, no seeds, no nuts, no tomatoes, no cucumbers, etc. I don't have to make the request more than two times at any given restaurant.

I'm certainly rooting for Lita Cohen and her Food Allergy Research Initiative (FARI).

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