My Dream to Eradicate Peanut Allergy

peanut allergy

Peanut allergy is deadly autoimmune disease I have lived with my entire life.

My peanut allergy is extreme. The helpful scientists at the Benaroya Research Laboratory say that my allergy is a 5. This scale goes to 6. I am “highly, highly allergic,” in the words of the Benaroya Institute Study Coordinator.

Staying alive is a daily struggle for me. I have to carry an Epipen with me everywhere, and I am never 90 seconds away from it at any time. If I ingest peanuts, I have 90 seconds to live. 90 seconds. I am just one person. Currently in this country, there are millions silently living with this potentially fatal disease. And as a society, we need to start taking action to curb this rising epidemic before it gets any worse. More and more fatal food allergies are being diagnosed every day.
With each day that passes, my inner resolve strengthens: I want to help science eradicate all deadly food allergies off the face of the Earth forever.

There is a lot of hysterical, inaccurate information out there.

My goal in this new blog is to educate the public with scientifically accurate information about peanut allergy. I know a lot about science, and I can [sometimes] write entertaining posts and articles.

Let me give you a little of my background. I majored in Biology and Chemistry at the University of New Orleans. I have worked in many DNA and ELISA testing laboratories. I know about science. I can read and understand articles on PubMed. I understand the scientific method.
Another strong core value of mine is public health. My brother works for King County Public Health. So did my grandfather. I grew up reading my grandfather’s old 1960’s CDC manuals and government issued books cataloging diseases. I am fascinated with Epidemiology (Epidemiology is the study (or the science of the study) of the patterns, causes, and effects of health and disease conditions in defined populations.)

I find disease outbreaks fascinating. I love how people can come together to fight them even more.
I think the greatest accomplishment in all of human history is the eradication of the smallpox virus. This was accomplished with vaccines. I am strongly pro-vaccine.
Smallpox has killed more people in human history than every single act of war and violence combined. Because of the efforts of dedicated scientists and doctors, smallpox will never kill another person again.
My dream is that in my lifetime, scientists, doctors, and the public will join forces once again in a similar effort to eradicate anaphylactic food allergies forever. Before I breathe my last breath, I want to know that fatal food allergies are as extinct as smallpox.

As a society, we are not doing enough to stop this drastically rising epidemic. Science does not even know what causes food allergies. Smallpox is caused by the Variola virus. What are the triggering events for anaphylactic food allergies? Nobody knows! Science has a couple of ideas, like the ‘hygeine hypothesis,’ but the exact combination of triggering events remains vague at best.

I am 39 years old. I have had an anaphylactic peanut allergy since I was 2.  I have no idea what a peanut even tastes like. My generation was on the cusp of an epidemic of massive porportions. The number of people with peanut allergy (and other foods) has been increasing exponentially. Growing up, I was one of two people in my entire school district with fatal peanut allergies. Today in every classroom in the United States of America, there are two cute little kids in every classroom who could die if they eat the wrong food.
And that number is rising in every classroom on the planet.

Nobody should die because they were hungry and ate the wrong food.

Right now the CDC isn’t even tracking deaths correctly that were caused by food allergies. Deaths due to fatal food allergies are classified in many different ways: bronchospasm, hypotension, heart failure, laryngospasm, fatal asthma attacks, heart attacks, and sometimes anaphylaxis is listed. Sometimes. The cause of death is a term which refers to an official determination of conditions resulting in a human’s death. Right now we are classifying “fatal food allergies” according to the final bodily system that failed resulting in brain death. We do not even have a current, accurate count of how many people are dying each year.

On the CDC’s main “Diseases and Conditions” website, anaphylactic food allergies are not even listed. That’s a huge blind spot considering there are two children with deadly food allergies in EVERY US classroom.

How is it that the CDC keeps ignoring this looming threat to public health? The most recent information I could find about peanut allergies on the CDC’s website was from 2008. This is not okay. Public health is failing us. Various internet sources say the yearly death toll from food allergies is about 200-300. I suspect that number could be as high as 3,000 a year because of the misleading cause of death classification issue. The CDC needs to start tracking the death toll from food allergies in a manner consistent with an emerging epidemic. Currently, they are not. We can fight this war a whole lot better if we know exactly how many people are dying.
Death from peanut allergies is tragic and senseless. Each and every person who has died of food allergies matters and is important.
I have come extremely close to death many, many times. When I read about a food allergy death, I think, ‘that could have been me.’ But here I am.  A survivor. A very lucky human being.

I am starting this blog because I want to share my experience surviving with a chronic, fatal, autoimmune disease for which there is no cure. I want to provide accurate, helpful information to increase awareness and compassion for people with deadly food allergies. I am hoping my advocacy and platform can help prevent food allergy deaths from happening.

This epidemic is growing and needs to be stopped. How many more people have to die before we start paying attention? One more death from food allergies is one death too many.

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