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Awe Nuts (Allergies at Camps)

Athletic Training

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.

med bag.JPG

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)