Thursday, May 31, 2012

"The Doctors" Ill-Advised Suggestion for Viewers to Fake a Butter Allergy

UPDATE: The post you see below was deleted/censored from the comments section by "The Doctors" website. Attempts to repost have also been met with deletion, and there has not been any response from the producer of the program, Jay McGraw. 

Recently the Program "The Doctors" aired a segment advising their viewers to tell a "little white lie" and fake a butter allergy when eating out to avoid the ~120 calories from butter added to vegetables and other prepared items. Read it here:
As a food-allergic individual, and physician for hundreds of allergic patients, my jaw dropped at the irresponsibility of this suggestion. Read my response to them below, and tell me... what are your thoughts about their recommendation to fake a food allergy?

As a practicing board-certified allergist, mother of children with allergies, and food-allergic individual, I felt compelled to reply to the irresponsible suggestion by your program that viewers "fake a butter allergy" in order to avoid caloric intake. Faking an allergy is not a "white lie". It is feigning an illness and disability, with profound consequences for those who truly suffer from the condition in question.
True food allergy is not something one "fakes". Rather, it is something that you wish you didn't have, because it can KILL YOU. Individuals with serious food allergies have a difficult enough time explaining the intricacies of cross-contamination to restaurants, and have only recently made enormous strides in restaurant safety. Your promotion of false allergy claims is a slap in the face of years of hard work, advocacy and education.
  • Encouraging your audience to feign illness is anathema to those physicians who work so hard to ensure that food allergies are not overdiagnosed, so that the diets of growing children are not unnecessarily limited.
  • Encouraging your audience to feign illness promotes a glut of false allergy claims in eating establishments, which will undoubtedly lead to true food allergies being taken less seriously by restaurant staff.
  • Encouraging your audience to feign illness goes against the grain of what you are supposed to be doing in your daily work and on your show -- promoting ACCURATE information and HEALTHY choices.
Would you encourage your viewers to fake diabetes in order to avoid sugar? How about faking celiac disease to avoid gluten?  Oh, here's a good one: let's encourage our patients to fake CANCER or disorders of DNA repair to avoid going through the whole body scanners at airports!
If the above suggestions seem unreasonable, take another look at your ill-advised recommendation. That the segment was aired during Allergy & Asthma Awareness Month is the ultimate irony.
Also, just so we have our medical facts straight... IgE-mediated food allergy is in almost all cases an aberrant immune hypersensitivity response to a food protein. Butter is a prepared food product. Claiming that you are allergic to butter is like saying you're allergic to a casserole.
The Doctors owe their viewers and the food allergy community a retraction of this ridiculous segment and a public apology.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Mother's Day Wishes

Mother's Day is nearly upon us, so I feel inclined to spread a little mama-love via the internet.

Fellow mothers of children with allergies, let us acknowledge that:

1. We love our children more than they will ever know, and would lay our lives down for them in a heartbeat.
2. There is not one among us who, if given the opportunity, would not "magically absorb" her child's allergy.
2. We spend the majority of our birthday wishes, shooting star wishes, 11:11 wishes, and 4-leaf clover wishes not on dreams of tropical vacations and lottery winnings, but on hopes for cures and the safety of our little ones.
3. We spend countless hours and dollars selecting and creating meals and treats so that our children can participate in social activities as fully as possible, and not feel isolated.
4. In addition to roles of mother and partner, we have taken up the essential roles of educator and advocate.
5. We eagerly share in the joys of allergies outgrown or treated, and also share in the mutual sorrow and loss when one of our children suffers. It is as though our hearts are joined with a single string - pulled in one place, and each heart gets tugged.

Dealing with allergies is a unique endeavor in each household. We all deal with it differently. 

Some have been lucky, and have been spared serious reactions in their kids. (There, but for the grace of God, go I...) Bless you.

Some continue to charge on in the face of frequent reactions, unknown/multiple triggers, or complicating illnesses. Bless you.

Some have poured their energy into making allergic children's environments as safe as possible, or offering safe foods/recipes, easy access to emergency medication, books and other educational materials. Bless you.

Some have shared their personal day-to-day experiences via the magic of the web, hoping that others may find solace and hope in learning they are not alone in this world. Bless you.

Some have participated in trials of novel therapeutic options, contributing to the march towards a cure. Bless you.

Some, unable to participate in a trial, have made the decision to pursue some of these therapies outside of the research studies. Bless you.

Some simply (BIG understatement) continue to do the best they can to keep their kids safe, happy and healthy, one day at a time. Bless you.

Bless you all during this time, and always.

Happy Mother's day, from the AllergistMommy.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Keratosis Pilaris - Or, Why My Kid Looks Like a Plucked Chicken

The skin is the body's largest organ. The condition of the skin is, in many ways, a window into our internal health. Therefore, it is only natural that people become immediately concerned by rashes. We often neglect our own elevated blood pressure, achey joints, or other ailments. The onset of a new rash, on the other hand, can quickly lead to a call to the doctor.

Interestingly, there is one rash I see in my practice which rarely causes alarm among patients and parents. In fact, it is common for a parent to state, "Oh, that? His sister has that too. In fact, so do I!"

Keratosis Pilaris is a common, heritable disorder which results in small bumps consisting of accumulated skin cells and keratin at the sites of hair follicles. It is especially common in people who have a history of allergies.
Although it can be mildly itchy, the rash generally does not cause discomfort. Commonly described as "gooseflesh", keratosis pilaris can be a concern cosmetically, leading to the avoidance of short sleeves or shorts (upper arms and thighs/calves are common locations for the rash). When it appears on the face, it can be confused with acne. If scratched and irritated, the bumps can become red and inflamed. In individuals with darker complexions, the bumps can take on a dark brown appearance, leading one to appear altogether polka-dotted.

Because they have lived with the rash of KP for so long, many patients are surprised to find that there are effective treatments. I generally have great results with an over-the-counter lactic acid lotion twice daily and daily exfoliation with a warm wet washcloth (a new one every day, please -- unless you like rubbing bacteria into your skin). One note of caution: I do not recommend applying lactic acid lotion to broken/scratched skin, as it can cause significant burning. As with any health care regimen, consistency is key. With regular attention, smooth skin can be yours again.

I speak from experience - I have KP, and so does my 3 year old son. But you won't find us hiding when the warm weather arrives! With good skin care, we'll be ready for summer this year, and so will you!