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back to article Harvard prof slams US nut allergy hysteria

A Harvard professor of medical sociology has agreeably warned that increasing hysteria over nut allergies in kids bears the hallmarks of mass psychogenic illness (MPI) - described as "a social network phenomenon involving otherwise healthy people in a cascade of anxiety". Writing in the British Medical Journal, Nicholas A …

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The new Russian Roulette...

A septic kid and a bag of Revels.

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Joke

Surely if we removed all the warnings...

... then nut allergy genes would be removed from the pool, and it would no longer be a problem. :-)

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Happy

Woo...Woo....Woo...

"STEP AWAY FROM THE MONKEY NUT!!"

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Irresponsible article

Don't you realise some people could be allergic to being called nutters, you callous bastards.

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Oh Lester....

I'm disappointed. This isn't up to your usual standard.

Have you or this professor ever seen a loved one suffering an allergic reaction to nuts and having to be rushed to the hospital? Have you or this professor ever been the poor bastard on the receiving end of such a reaction?

If you had then perhaps you wouldn't try to be so cute with that last remark.

There is over-reaction in all aspects of society and all over the world. We've seen it with the IWF over a 30 year old album cover that has never been judged illegal. We've seen it with people in India burning effigies of Greg Chappell when he was believed to be behind the axing of Sourav Ganguly. I could say we've seen it in various political actions but I'd like to post a comment here without getting political so I won't.

I'm one of those poor bastards who has to read the ingredients on everything he buys because one wrong ingredient ingested and I'm in the hospital. If I'm lucky and get prompt medical assistance. If not then I'm in a 6ft pine box. It makes for boring shopping trips and boring eating at restaurants.

I'm a nutter for doing my damndest to make sure that doesn't happen, am I? I'm a nutter for doing my damndest to make sure my other half's son (who also has an allergy) doesn't end up in the hospital? Well pass me the long sleeved jacket.

What the professor should be highlighting is the fact that in this "I got injured drinking coffee so I'll sue the place I bought it from" mentality, blame claims are now so commonplace any school is going to be exceptionally overcautious lest it get its balls sued off. A lot more common sense and education for the poor sod with the allergy as well as people in positions where they might have to deal with allergies to be more aware of things is what's needed. Common sense, not mass treatment.

But I'll tell you now, not everyone gets allergy tested. Not everyone knows they have the allergy. Until they're gasping on the floor, panicking and choking. It's not nice to take the piss out of something like that.

Sure, back everything up with statistics, be detached. I'll ask again Professor, have you ever seen a loved one suffering an allergic reaction to nuts and having to be rushed to the hospital? Have you ever been the poor bastard on the receiving end of such a reaction?

I'll say it again: common sense and awareness needs to prevail, not mass treatment.

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Coat

A Solution

Feed every child in America a load of nuts. The allergic ones are eliminated, everyone else can go about their business. Problem Solved.

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Stop

Legal implications

I suspect a lot of these silly situations are more and more being engineered by those afraid of being sued, something not touched on by the article.

Fear of litigation makes people take polar views by default, policies giving them little leeway to inject a dose of common sense.

The article is spot on though. We do need to stop and reflect sometimes on these things in the light of other more pressing dangers.

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Didn't think that sense came from America

But obviously I was wrong.

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Stop

Slam slam slam

I hereby lay down a challenge to journalists to come up with a verb other than 'slam' to describe this type of article.

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Happy

Nuts!

To be fair, the ludicrously extreme precautions he mentions would likely have been taken for fear of litigation, which is hilariously out of control in the US.

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Coat

Nuttin' to see here...

Commendations to the professor for nicely summarizing a major gripe of mine in a nutshell.

And nuts to those parents who succumb to mass hysteria, it really drives me... what's that word again? Oh yeah, it drives me buggers.

Mine's the one with crunchy peanut butter in the left pocket and smooth in the right.

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the irony is

that nuts are actually very healthy. How many americans - and brits - are going to die through eating unhealthy food that is 'safe'?

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Preach it!

I am allergic to several nuts, including peanuts. That being said, I've never had a reaction, unless I actually consumed them.

There ARE people who are that allergic to certain nuts, however the kids (an their parents) know it and will have communicated it to the schools. If it's not the case, the abundance of caution is really just an abundance of douschebaggery

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Hell yeah!

About time common sense was used.

We get the same kind of thing at my kid's school.

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peanuts of mass destruction.

Take a real, but misunderstood problem. Remove any and all facts and blow it out of all proportion. Allow the panic to feed off itself, coupled with hysterical articles in the press and TV - who's only motivation is to produce enticing headlines to sell more product and you end up in the current situation.

As sonn as someone comes in as tells people that things aren't really as bad as they think, they're immediately demonised as being everything from insensitive to an agent of evil itself. All you need now are for the politicians to get in on the act, and promise the ignorant and the anxious that decisive action will be taken and you've moved the situation on to something that needs to have "war" declared on it.

Whether it's peanuts, terrorism, commies, recession, global warming or anything else doesn't matter. Once you've whipped up the rabble into a frenzy there are only two things to do: exploit the situation for all it's worth or go and bomb something. In this case I'd suggest remarketing peanuts as "happy nuts", nuking a few geographically remote - but weak and unrelated countries and blaming it all on the previous administration.

Problem solved.

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Gav
Coat

Think of the children, you insensitive clod!

Some *children* are allergic to n*ts, and here you've written a page riddled with the word!

I demand El Reg is hosed down to remove all contamination of it, or you will bear the guilt in the very, very improbable event of a *child* seeing it and going into a fatal allergic shock.

But you don't care about that, do you? Sure, it's so unlikely that we can safely say it will never, ever happen. But what if it does? One day you may come to rue this reckless and thoughtless behaviour!

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Coat

I just find the whole thing...

Nuts.

I know, I know...

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Happy

2nd Amendment Rights?

Yes, peanuts are getting more and more dangerous. Fortunately, we're not from from the 2nd-Amendment kicking in and preserving our right to bear peanuts.

Before long, they'll be as dangerous as fruit and we'll have to learn self defence...

Right now, Mr Apricot, come and me with that peanut !!!

(shoots him, eats the peanut)

The deceased, Mr Apricot, is now 'elpless

:-)

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Scared Stupid

Not really sure which is worse, the hysteria he's talking about or his obsession with nuts. His points are well taken, but hardly stops at nut allergies. In Alaska, a place most people would recognise as having more than your average amount of snow, kids are suspended and sometimes expelled from schools for throwing snowballs. It's perceived as an act of extreme violence.

But that's hardly the worst example. What about no longer failing exams (deferred success) or preventing daycares from buying swingsets and motorised vehicles that sit the child at terrifying heights of nearly 1 foot and move at suicidal speeds of slower than their own walking pace?

The obsession with cleanliness which ironically gives kids the very allergies and asthma parents are trying to protect them from. Not to mention the new superbugs being created in communities by replicating the use of anti-bacterial cleaners that caused the same problem in hospitals.

Fear of nuts is just another in the long list of paranoia that ends up causing the very harm that teachers and parents are trying to protect their kids from.

Soon kids will no longer be able to read books (at the risk of getting a deadly paper cut) or run for fear of falling over. When kids are forceably escorted by 4 adults positioned to catch them no matter which way they *might* fall over, or no longer allowed to eat solids for fear of choking, and parents are reported to children services for failing to bubble wrap them before they're put to bed or sent to school (falling out of bed or slipping on the side walk) we will truly have reached the kind of mass hysteria this guy is talking about.

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Paris Hilton

Is it just me...

.... or are other folks also misreading "Christakis" as "Christsake"?

As in "For Christakis, aren't some folks dumb?"

Paris, for the myriad of nuts (sealed in cans or otherwise) references.

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How have we survived?

I am always amazed the human race has survived, considering all those fatally toxic ingestibles dong their damnedest to do us in. People who would eat raw oysters may have a death wish, come to think of it.

--g

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Max
Joke

Sadly reminds me of the old but true joke

Of the back of the peanut bag saying "WARNING: CONTAINS NUTS"

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Anonymous Coward

Flash Photography

Like the news reports warn people about 'flash photography'? ... How many cases of epileptic fits from flash photography on news programs are there? None?

They should warn people to grab a rock because there bears are coming.

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Food madness

There was a study a couple of years ago suggesting that most people who think they have serious food allergies actually only have mild intolerances, or have no intolerances at all. Unfortunately we in the West have developed a culture of codependence between 'nomal' people and the authorities. Our governments are so afraid of losing our votes that they enable anxiety related behaviours which are bad for us. Rather than telling middle England voters that they are foolish to obsess about lactose intolerance, they encourage us to get hokus-pokus homeopathic medicine on the NHS!

Unfortunately, it benifits politicians more to pander to our irrational anxieties than to encourage us to be rational and judgemental. Firstly, by taking a hard scientific stance you lose all the votes of the chronically irrational (of which there are many), and secondly, you encourage everyone else to take a rational attitude to politics, which never helps the incumbant party apply their own irrational policies. Look at it this way - when was the last time you heard government politician call for a greater level of rational thinking throughout society. Right-minded thinking, joined-up thinking, pro-change thinking, yes, but never more rational thinking.

Of course, in the US its even worse because there is the very rational fear of being sued that organizations have of parents. The chance of a loose peanut killing a child is very small, but the chance of being sued successfully for millions of dollars by a parent because their hypocondriac kid got sick after seeing a peanut on a bus is much, much higher.

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He is spot on...

...not many years ago, not a single person I knew (out of the 300 at my school) and in my social circle were alergic to anything other than cats - myself included. I knew one person who claimed to be alergic to nuts, but never showed any symptoms, and this person was very much one to adopt the latest social trend. With more serious threats to life and liberty (such as war) having wained, I think people today have risen up Maslow's list of needs and so seek lesser reason to complain.

We are all probably guilty of this. If there's a war or other major threat to our the lifestyles we take for granted, people will shift their priorities. Cigar anyone?

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And when that's dealt with...

... could he publish something similar on the whole "won't someone think of the children?" (aka every male is a paedophile) stupidity?

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Joke

Bah

I'm badly allergic to Yank nuts. They should all have their nuts yanked.

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Reminds me of my own childhood

Mom was certain I had ADHD so she kept pushing and pushing for the docs to give me pill after pill after pill. Got to a point where I would "take" the pill by washing it down sink.

Personally school just wasnt challenging enough. Always bored and sleeping because I could just breeze through tests and ace without trouble.

Hope this message gets spread more so idiots, oh sorry parents, can wake up and smell the coffee.

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Anonymous Coward

Never mind the nuts,

what about the danger of being poisoned by eating cucumbers, a well recognised danger in England up until the Victorian era - although personally I'm more than happy to treat them as poisonous even today.

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I agree ...

with every word.

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Anonymous Coward

As someone with a nut allergy

These are just ridiculous. On the other hand, the number of foods that contain nuts is equally ridiculous, especially in foods that don't need them at all. It's like they go out of their way to use a nut oil in order to reduce the number of people that can eat it.

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At last!

A voice of sense!

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What happened to avoidance?

While obviously you need a non nut alternative for anything as common as nut allergies... why the hell can't the kids just not eat nuts?

It only ever took me one bad reaction to learn to avoid certain things as a kid, or has hystaria grown so bad that they're afraid kids will suddenly develop a fatal allergy even though they've been eating them for years?

While we're at it, ban tomatoes in the schools, I can't eat them, and everyone else should have to suffer with me.

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Paris Hilton

Beans

According to a friend of mine (doctor and research scientist) peanuts are in fact classed as beans. Although I can imagine this is of little consolation to "bean" allergy sufferers.

Paris of course - I'm sure she knows a thing or two about nuts (probably beans as well)

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Paris Hilton

Just what the world needs ...

More nuts!

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You are what you eat

Nuts anyone?

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Go

Simple solution

Notice on entrance to school:

"Caution: May contain nuts."

It works as a get-out-of-court-free on foods, why not on buildings?

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Coat

Re: How have we survived?

The answer is - by having parasites.

Our remote ancestors had guts full of worms and had no allergy.

Our fathers and mothers had allergy only if they were "city kids". Those that played outside all day, dug castles in the sand pit with their hands and ate the neighbour's apples with the same hand after that had no allergy. The "clean life" ones that listened to mom and dad and washed their hands regularly had it.

The problem nowdays is that the life has gotten so clean that it is nearly impossible to get the minimum dose of parasites we all need to keep our IgE busy. There was a spectacular documentary on the subject on the Beeb a couple of years back. A consultant in the Oxford Teaching hospital. Asthma to the point where he could not work. A spoon of worms a week (our clean life de-worms us pretty fast so you have to keep topping up) - no asthma. A group of kids in the Bolivian mountain village. All with NO allergy and all full of worms. Nasty big south American ones. The gift of civilisation - anti-parasite tablets. One year later - asthma, eczema and allergy in more than a quarter of them.

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Anonymous Coward

The 15yo nearly died from his nut allergy

It was all kind freaky. we ordered the same chinese meal that we'd ordered sveral times before....... only this time they'd changed the recipe.

Within five minutes he was flat on the floor turning a very interesting shade of blue. Strangely enough about a minute after we'd jabbed him with the epipen he wanted to get back up to play on his xbox.

What is a right pain in the ass is when no one can be actually honest about nuts. food sellers automatically protect themselves by slapping a 'may contain nuts' warning. Nando's and Kinnerton chocolate are honourable mentions.

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Re: Oh Lester....

"I'll ask again Professor, have you ever seen a loved one suffering an allergic reaction to nuts"

Well you could say the same about anything:

"Have you ever seen a loved one ... screaming in agony after being hit by a car?"

"Have you ever seen a loved one ... writhing on the floor after eating seafood?"

(BTW I'm allergic to white fish)

You make the point that we should put things into perspective with statistics then spoil it all by ranting on emotionally. Yeah we can all get emotional about something that is close to us.

The article is spot on in my view.

The professor isn't saying that nut allergies aren't important - just that there is a proportionality that is missing from the issue at the moment.

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re: How have we survived?

Actually, too many of us are surviving... and I don't mean overpopulation.

What I mean is that nature intends for the sickly to die and not reproduce, thus doing Mr Darwin's work and making a healthier breed of people.

Instead, we're seeing far too much medical intervention that makes us weaker as a species, forming a growing dependence on medical technology to keep us alive.

This starts before we are born. Nature is good at preventing reproduction and killing off unborn as a way to weed out defects. Now we stuff the mothers full of fertility drugs and anti-abortant agents to force a new child into the world.

We then take sickly children and feed them with oxygen and drugs to keep them alive.

We then intervene in later years with drugs and operations to prevent people from dying from illness.

When does nature get a chance to do any selection?

On a personal level, medical care is all very well. We all are, or know someone that, would be dead without medical care (I'd be dead a few times over). But as a species we're not really doing ourselves any favour.

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@Slaphead

Peanuts are legumes. They are closely related to beans (which are also legumes). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Legume

This of course makes a mockery of the whole "nut allergy" thing since a hazelnut is very far from being a peanut.

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Coat

@Alan Walker

"Fortunately, we're not from from the 2nd-Amendment kicking in and preserving our right to bear peanuts."

I too believe we should all have the right to bare nuts.

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Coat

Alergies good

I am not alergic to anything edible. This has ruined my life because I eat everything I can lay my hands on and have turned into a fat b*st*rd.

Just off to get a seafood cocktail in peanut sauce.

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Happy

Allergic to nuts? Or the chem soup in which they're grown?

As someone else said above, [cue Grumpy Old Man voice: ] "Back when I was a boyh ... ", I knew folks who were allergic to cats (actually, the dander, saliva, and stuff that collects in their fur), including meself, and if anyone was allergic to nuts or other common foodstuff we would have known about it (especially since PB&J and cowmilk are default kiddie lunch ingredients). So, what this inquiring mind wants to know is whether people are allergic to the nuts themselves, or whether it is the [increasing use of] fertilizer, herbi-/ pesti- cides, or other chemicals used in growing and processing that is causing the problem (either the residues themselves or the chemicals' reaction with the nuts' innate chemistry).

I agree with those who've stated that "protecting" kids from any and all possible allergens will more or less guaranted that the kids WILL have problems with these substances later in life, due to not having had the chance to develop antibodies.

Happy face because nutters are always smiling.

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Peanuts Are Not Nuts

Dozens of comments and not one who notes that going after peanuts under the guise of "nut hysteria" is double wrong.

Peanuts aren't nuts. I can eat them by the bucket full. But give me a raw walnut and you better be an expert in tracheotomies.

The ignorance is common and annoying (getting my Kungpao Chicken "castrated" for off-handely mentioning a nut allergy - which Ive had for 3 decades not as a latest trend - sucks).

And the vapid look on flight attendents faces when I return the bag of nuts and ask for the little bag of peanuts instead.

Incidentally, I can eat Indian food which is choc-a-block full of nuts. But they are ground down and most importanly cooked. A doctor explained to me that the protein that causes the allergic reaction breaks down under heating. Thank goodness, I don't think I could live without a decent Curry.

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Flame

Stop having children, you nutters

"Think of the children"... meh

Just stop.

We already have far too many. Fussing about nut allergies, or MSG allergies, or insect bites, or RSI from excessive text messaging is not relevant.

We have too many people on the planet. Again: We have TOO MANY people on the planet.

What part of that is hard to understand?

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Joke

Since no one has asked

Is it true then, that my wife is allergic to my nuts, as she claims?

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@Oh Lester....

To paraphrase Sergeant Hulker from Stripes "Lighten up Captain Jamie"

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CTG
Unhappy

Sense of proportion

My wife is allergic to peanuts - probably not enough to kill her, but she does get pretty sick with even a small trace of peanuts. Our son's school just had a vote on whether to ban all peanut products from the school (there are 2 or 3 kids out of 800 who actually have an allergy). Even my wife thought this was totally over the top, and voted no.

Fortunately, the result was a resounding No, but even so, the school is still requesting that people "think twice before allowing your kids to bring peanut products to school". Sure, the kids in question need to be careful, but why punish everyone else? I know some kids who will *only* eat peanut butter sandwiches for lunch, so what are they supposed to do, starve? ffs, get a life.

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