Fear and allergy in the lunchroom

The article “Fear and Allergies in the Lunchroom” by Claudia Kalb provides detailed overview of food allergy in children specifying main causes and effects of allergy on children’s health. Kalb writes that nowadays there are more than 10 million Americans who are suffering from food allergies, especially from peanuts allergy. Allergists claims that the number will be increasing constantly. Peanut allergies are considered the most frequently observed in children under five, and their number has doubled during the period 1997-2002.

Today the number of children with multiple allergies is the highest compared with the past decades. Therefore, parents of children, who suffer from allergies, are really afraid of each new food as they wait for vomiting and diarrhea. Allergists say that deaths are rare and only the most sensitive children may die of the wrong foods. Kalb tries to explain how allergies appear. According to ‘hygiene hypothesis’, children and grown-ups are too clean, whereas immune system is “designed to battle dangerous foreign invaders like parasites and viruses and infections”.

However, some of ‘the most toxic challenges’ have been eliminated by antibiotics and clean water. Therefore, immune system looses its ability to fight health bacteria and more children are exposed to allergies. Instead, immune system fights wheat and eggs. Kalb also discusses ways of easing problems for allergic children. She writes that many children are ‘supplied’ with EpiPens loaded with epinephrine which is necessary for preventing severe allergenic reactions. Nevertheless, the exact causes of food allergy remain still unknown. Kalb asserts that it is a combination of genes and environment.

For example, one of the recent researches shows that children from rural areas who are in contact with animals and dirtiness are less likely to develop allergy. Up to 13% of schools in the United States have already banned peanuts and other foods causing allergies in children. Kalb writes that positive moment in researches is the announcement that scientists have identified gene which is able to protect mice from food allergies and sever reactions. For six months the researches were made on mice, and now scientists are going to test them on humans.

Scientists hope that one day they will find gene which will prevent children from itching and wheezing. Scientists argue that sometimes it is rather difficult to provide an accurate diagnosis of child and identify which product causes allergy as such diagnosis takes much time and patience. Such tests are claimed to be very sensitive and their prediction outcome is about 605 merely. Kalb says that blood tests together with documented data about allergy symptoms will be more of help when predicting child’s risk to develop food allergy.

Blood tests identify, for example, how antibodies react to food allergen. Actually, the only accurate tests is to do ‘food challenge’ meaning that a child is to be given small and then increasing amounts of possible allergen under doctor’s eye and then the doctors monitors results. But not all parents agree to make their children undergo such tests as they are afraid of possible severe attacks. Kalb shows that allergy, especially in children, should be paid more attention as the number of allergic patients is constantly increasing. Questions

a) I think that the targeted audience is medical community, parents whose children suffer from food allergies and everybody who is interested in this problem. The article can be fully understood by medical community, but some moments are too scientific to be easily understood by non-specialists. b) Claudia Kalb is General Editor of Newsweek and her articles focuses mainly on medical and health issues. She also wrote many paper devoted to hormone therapy, alcoholism prevention and treatment, drug addiction, etc. Kalb also worked for Boston Magazine, Jakarta Post and Associated Press.

In Indonesia she published two books how to study English. Her works are recognized and she is included a fellowships at a Knight mini-fellowship at the Knight Science Journalism Fellowships at MIT, Casey Journalism Center for Children and Families and John S. Knight Fellowship at Stanford University. (Live Talk: Health and Spirituality: Interview with Claudia Kalb, retrieved from http://www. msnbc. com/modules/newsweek/talk/110603_kalb. htm) c) I think the primary purpose of the article is to make people more aware of food allergies in children under 5 and to call medicine community to take more measures to prevent allergies.

d) The information presented in the article is very important because the author provides clear explanation of how allergy arises and sets the background for further investigations. e) The way the information is presented can be defined as innovative and extraordinary as the author combines scientific explanations with real-life stories of allergic children not to make readers bored. f) I think that apparent bias is that Kalb asserts we are too clean and, therefore, we are more exposed to allergies, readers may be influenced the following: after reading information they may pay less attention to personal hygiene.

In the result it is possible to catch new illnesses. g) I have learnt new and interesting facts and they can be incorporated in my future professional life. Actually, I have learnt how allergy arises and that causes of allergy are still unknown. Maybe in future I’ll work on investigating those causes and how some children outgrow milk and eggs allergies. h) I have learnt some new facts which will be definitely important for my personal life. I’ll be more attentive in choosing foods.

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