Category Archives: Allergies

Hop along ‘Peter Rabbit,’ find better ways to entertain allergies

When I watch comedy scenes about allergies, I cringe and get angry. Sometimes I giggle, just to keep from crying. Other times, I heartily laugh and here are a few reasons why.

ABC 'Blackish'

The use of epinephrine and allergic conditions are highlighted in movies and television shows today more than ever. And food allergies have grown at higher rates.

“Peter Rabbit” debuted with headlines of food allergy insensitivity, a petition, and a Sony Pictures apology. The commentary toward food allergy advocates like me, resulted in backlash that “we’re too sensitive.” The movie still earned $25 million its opening weekend. Amidst the controversy is a scene where Peter and his friends attack Mr. McGregor with blackberries, knowing he is allergic. When a berry enters his mouth, McGregor chokes and self-injects his EpiPen (epinephrine).

Courtesy: Kids with Food Allergies, a division of Asthma and Allergies Foundation of America, both issued a warning and statement about ‘Peter Rabbit.’

No one wants to be the movie spoiler. Yet when it comes to scenes like this, we have to prepare. Thanks to the warnings from Asthma and Allergies Foundation of America and its Kids With Food Allergies (KFA) division, among others, I asked my daughter if she wanted to see it. Without giving detail, I mentioned it has a food allergy reaction scene in it. Her response was “Not really, it kind of sounds like ‘Smurfs’.”

A child never forgets. No matter the punchline or scene, it makes kids with allergies feel like they are the butt of the joke and are being bullied. Food can hurt and it can be fatal. Period.

However, there are movies that feature allergies and epinephrine that we would watch again. Sony Pictures “Jumanji 2: Welcome to the Jungle” features epinephrine and allergic conditions without outcry.

In an early scene, the mom opens her son’s bedroom door and tells him not to forget his EpiPen. A subtle reminder gave me relief. Through the rest of the movie, all of the characters are challenged to overcome their “weaknesses.” Among these include an allergy to venom. While rare to encounter a snake bite in real life, there is a message.

What this movie shows is how people can work together to support and protect each other from their greatest weakness, including life-threatening health conditions. That’s how we should relate off screen.

The comedy behind allergies can help us all have an empathetic laugh. The punchline or scene just needs to send the right message.

“Jumanji 2: Welcome to the Jungle” reinforces this message. There is good reason behind why it has topped $900 million worldwide. The message.

We’re here for each other and hopefully we can learn how to treat each other with kindness. We should encourage each other to just be ourselves, and not let a disability or condition get in the way. May it be achieving a goal, pursuing a dream, or even conquering your greatest fears. You can still be your own kind of warrior and thrive. There is strength behind our weakness.  

When lack of understanding about a health condition hits the big screen, as a health communicator I am not resentful; I’m enlightened.  The word epinephrine or an EpiPen was not the norm in our vernacular outside of those affected by allergies. This life-saving medication was not mentioned on our favorite shows or films when my youngest daughter was first diagnosed.  It is movies like “Peter Rabbit” that forces the dialogue to remain open and keeps advocates like me working to educate and to create change for the better, and for all.

Episode Two of new Netflix docu-series, Rotten, investigates food allergies

The rising rate of food allergies takes center stage in the episode “The Peanut Problem,” in the new Netflix six-part documentary series, Rotten, which critically examines the food industry. Whether or not you have food allergies or know someone with food allergies, overall the series is a must-see for anyone who cares about the food on your plate or in your kids’ lunch.

An underlying theme emphasized in episode two, “The Peanut Problem,” is frankly, we all have a “duty to care.” Renowned chefs Ming Tsai, owner of Blue Dragon (Boston, Mass.), and  Sam Mason, (Brooklyn, NY) share behind-the-scenes perspectives on the restaurant industry challenges and how they accommodate diners with food allergies. A global issue, the episode gives an example of legal consequences for a UK restaurant owner who failed to disclose ingredient changes.  

The responsibility to care is also explored at the root of the problem – peanuts. Peanuts are considered life-threatening kryptonite to parents like me and allergic kids alike who must manage to avoid peanuts; whether it is ingestion, touch or even airborne. In watching this, you are given a different lens about what the industry and peanut farmers are doing about it.

Overall, there has been exponential growth in the prevalence of food allergies among children, and even adult onset, in the last 20 years. And for reasons still unknown. The segment explores potential answers to the underlying causes of food allergies and the research actively underway to prevent and treat food allergies. Most importantly, it stresses ways to recognize symptoms of a severe reaction, known as anaphylaxis, and how to quickly treat a reaction with epinephrine, through the use of an epi-pen.

Ruchi Gupta, MD, pediatrician and researcher, is among the featured medical experts who give insights into the medical condition, research and her firsthand experience. As she reflects on being a food allergy mom herself she states, “Until you experience it, you really don’t understand it.”  

And this is so true. None of us know what anything is like until we experience it in life. This documentary gives a snapshot to help others understand and hopefully gain a “duty to care.”

If you live in the Chicago area, a screening event that features Dr. Gupta and supporting event sponsors, will take place at Chicago’s Davis Theater on Thurs., Jan. 11, at 6:30 p.m. Click here to register. Check out episode two and the series on Netflix.