Category Archives: Food 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.

Nima Sensor: Gadget tests for gluten and peanut allergens

Avoidance of foods with life threatening allergens is far from easy when dining in or out. There are so many precautions to take to avoid the presence of any food allergy.

  • Read food labels. Call food manufacturers if necessary.
  • Talk to the restaurant manager and server.
  • Educate the schools, teachers, friends, family and loved ones.
  • Evaluate the policies of public schools, private schools, and universities, and then develop relevant plans.
  • Cook and bake your own food, including while on vacation.
  • Keep prescriptions current. Carry two epinephrine auto-injectors.

This is just a snapshot of the many steps some food allergic individuals and families take to avoid a food allergy reaction. Now, imagine a gadget that gives a supplemental level of caution before the first bite.

Years ago, I started following Nima Sensor from startup and tested the tool at the Gluten Free Expo in Bethesda, Md. I was captivated by a small gadget that fits in the palm of your hand that tests pea-sized food particles for an allergen. It can take only the size of a bread crumb to cause a food allergy reaction, and potentially anaphylaxis, a life threating reaction.

How it Works

Friday, Jan. 24, marked the one-year anniversary of the Gluten sensor on the market. Timely for a celebratory Facebook Live Chat to demonstrate the sensor for gluten and now peanuts, coming this March. Much like the demo video, the team showed how it works by testing cupcakes that were labeled gluten free and nut free cupcakes from a local San Francisco bakery.

The sensor comes with about 12 capsules. You order capsules as you need them for your own food testing. For accuracy, it must be about the size of a pea. It could take up to five minutes for the sensor to alert you of any level of presence of gluten and peanuts.

Now, I know you probably have a lot of questions, like those on the Facebook chat. My top two questions:

1) How do you know testing a pea-sized amount is enough to fully test a food item? Using any utensil if needed, you can take multiple samples from your plate or test a few areas of the specific food item you’d like to cross check.

2) How can the cost fit in the budget? Many of the users on the chat shared they were able to work with their individual health flexible spending plans to help cover the costs of the sensor and capsules for the gluten sensor. This process may also be supported by your physician and insurance plan, so it’s worth looking into. Currently there is a pre-sale to order the Nima Starter Kit – Peanut for $229 until March 8. It will retail for $289 later in the year. The maintenance cost is the order of replacement capsules which also needs to be considered in your budget.

Any supplement to  help you make the judgment call on what to eat may be worth it. We’re all looking for ways to ease our minds before the first bite. Learn more about the Nima Sensor.