On the first day of camp this week, I collected 10 EpiPens for nut allergies. We have just over 100 campers which means that 10% of our campers are allergic to (or might be allergic to) nuts (oh and shellfish). So much for serving shrimp cocktail at camp today! Isn’t this crazy? How did this happen? Where did all of these allergies come from? Did the nuts get stronger?
When I was growing up, I think I knew of only 1 or 2 kids with a food allergy. However, these days, major accommodations are made at camp. To begin with, the paperwork that must accompany each medication brought to camp takes a lot of time and tracking. There are no longer peanut butter and jellies in the camp cafeterias; it’s now sun butter or almond butter. When kids bring their own lunch in, sharing or trading food is “technically” not allowed. Camp stores only stock snacks like Sour Patch Kids, Twizzlers, and Swedish Fish. Lastly, as athletic trainers, we are toting heavy bags of EpiPens and inhalers all over campus all summer. Here is a pic of my full medication bag this week.
So I conducted about a half hour of research today to try to figure out why allergens are more prevalent now than when I was a kid. Guess what I learned? NOTHING! Sorry. OK, I found 3 hypotheses, and a myth but all in all, no conclusive reasoning. Below are my findings. Disclaimer: this was not a formal research project… just a half hour spent on google. I really had a hard time finding journal articles or other reliable sources. If you readers know of any, please share links in the comments section.
Here are the hypotheses and links to the articles.
1. We have become so clean that our immune systems are bored and need something to fight. Also from this article:
2. The way that American’s roast nuts have altered the nuts protein strands making them a bigger target for allergens. (Article for 1 and 2 here)
3. The way food is processed can make allergens more likely to produce symptoms. (Article here)
A myth debunked?: According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, vaccines are NOT responsible for the rise in food allergies. (Article here)
Here’s a link to a fact sheet about Peanut Allergies:
So, those are my observations, thoughts and findings for today. Have you all started camps yet? Seen a rise in allergies? All comments are welcome!
PS. Alternate Titles: “The Nutty Professor”, “What are you, nuts?”
Comments from Old Site:
Mara Smith says:
June 26, 2014 at 4:53 pm
Allergic to chicken? Hmm… I’m skeptical.
Mike R says:
June 26, 2014 at 9:21 am
Hi Mara, Im working at an 8 week overnight summer camp in Maine, taking care of about 130 kids. Definitely noticed a rise in allergies as well, your typical nuts and shellfish but Ive also got some atypical ones like bananas or chicken (the cooks love to hear that). Very interesting read, maybe some more research will come out in the future that might explain the possible rise in food allergies.