This is not an issues blog. I rarely get involved in controversy, especially the kind unrelated to books but something has come up that has so upset me that I haven't been able to discuss it coherently with anyone but my husband. I've put it on the backshelf of my mind until now, even though my hands are shaking as I write this.
Chatelaine magazine is a Canadian publication for women. I've always bought their issues over Cosmo or Women's World because I felt I could relate to it. That will change. In December's issue, right on the front cover is an article called "The Making of the Peanut Allergy Myth" by a woman named Patricia Pearson. This came to my attention through my Anaphylaxis newsletter.
Pearson starts off her article with an axe to grind, her son is a picky eater and she'd like to send him to school with a peanut butter sandwich. She can't because she thinks the school are overreacting to other children's peanut allergies. I sympathize with Ms Pearson, I really do, because my daughter is a picky eater too but she will never have a peanut butter sandwich at school or at home because she has a life threatening peanut allergy.
I'm glad that my daughter's school is an "overly cautious" peanut free school that requires her to wear an Epipen and a Medic-Alert bracelet. I don't know how many times I've had to go up to the school because I forgot her Epipen on the counter! At least, when she's there I have one less thing to worry about.
Why are food allergies so dangerous? They are unpredictable. The first reaction is generally the mildest reaction. There is no telling whether the next attack will be mild or severe. A severe reaction is one in which a person's throat closes over and death from asphyxiation can occur without the intervention of adrenaline (in the form of an Epipen shot). This is called anaphylactic shock.
My daughter's first reaction was the first time I gave her a peanut butter sandwich when she was 2 years old. I wondered why she wasn't eating it (I love peanut butter) until I took a look at her. Her face had puffed up like a balloon and her eye swelled shut. Her face was covered in blotches. You can imagine my reaction. Since then we've had Benadryll and an Epipen with us at all times. Then her only other reaction she had was this past summer when she had skin contact with peanut butter at the playground. She broke out in hives. That surprised me because she did not ingest peanut butter.
I know my daughter has to take responsibility for her own health; I'm trying to teach her that but right now she's not even ten. The way kids of that age spread viruses and lice the way they do doesn't give me confidence that they will be diligent enough to wash their hands. What if one of them picked up a crayon? What if then my daughter did? What if she put her fingers in her mouth? I can't even think of the consequences.
Pearson's heartless article is like a slap in the face. I'm shocked that a mother would be so dismissive of a known medical condition and so careless of the lives of other mothers' children. Of course, that is her opinion. This is a free country and anyone with any foolish, misguided opinion can stand on any street corner and proclaim it to the world. Go free speech! But I am very disappointed with Chatelaine magazine for being irresponsible enough to print it. As Gwen Smith put it in her rebuttal on the CBC News Website,
In Canada, getting taken down in Chatelaine is as close as it gets to being kneecapped by Oprah.Chatelaine still stands behind this writer and as long as they do I will make a statement with my wallet. Instead of buying Chatelaine I will spend my money on some other publication. Maybe I need to know how to please a man in the bedroom as Cosmo is always shouting from the cover. Not long ago, lover's of Young Adult fiction sent a message loud and clear to the publishers of Liar by Justine Larbalestier that the cover showing a white girl for a book about a black girl was unacceptable. The cover was changed. If the reaction on the Chatelaine message boards is any indication, Chatelaine will follow suit and publish a retraction, though I believe the damage is already done.
If you'd like to more about Food Allergies go to:
Allergic Living Magazine
If you'd like to learn about the No Child Without program for schools (they provide Medic-Alert bracelets for children with any life threatening medical condition) see this website.
And for fun, here's Binky Goes Nuts (Arthur series):