May 8, 2015, 12:00:00 AM CDT - Post By: Children's Health

Not quite "Attack of the Killer Peanuts"

Have you ever seen “Attack of the Killer Tomatoes”? It’s a movie from 1978 starring a bunch of people you never heard of and probably wouldn’t care about if you did (however, its sequel “Return of the Killer Tomatoes” featured a young George Clooney). The plot revolves around the mysterious uprising of man-eating tomatoes and the public’s paranoid response. Some people say it’s the worst movie of all time. But, like many other historically bad films, it somehow managed to develop a group of followers who qualified it as a cult classic.

I am not one of those followers, but the movie came to my mind recently after hearing terrifying messages about food allergies. What I heard made me envision giant shellfish, wheat stalks and peanuts chasing the general public.

- "More and more people are getting them!"
- "There is no known cause!"
- "There is no cure!"
- "Just brushing up against the trigger food can cause a reaction!"
- "Peanuts are growing fangs!"

Sadly, only the last statement is imaginary. Food allergies are a seriously scary thing, especially for parents. Between 6 to 8 percent of American children have them. They are one of the leading causes of anaphylactic reactions. And some, like peanut allergies, are usually not outgrown.

It makes sense that parental paranoia about food allergies is at an all-time high - especially now that a new school year is beginning and parents won't be able to control what foods their children are exposed to during the days. However, if parents don't reign in that paranoia, they might find that they're compromising their children's quality of life even more. Finding a balanced approach is challenging to say the least.

So, I sought out Children’s new food allergy expert, Dr. Drew Bird, to figure out how parents should appropriately respond to food allergies. He came to us this summer after serving as an Allergy and Immunology post-graduate Clinical Research fellow in food allergies at Duke University Medical Center (which basically means he is on the forefront of all the latest food allergy treatment and research).

He did not advise bringing in the National Guard to stop the attacking foods, but he did advise controlled caution to prevent and treat reactions.