School bus evacuated over peanut

December 11, 2008

If ever we needed confirmation that we have entered a strange, unpleasant era of hyper-irrationality, it comes in the form of peanut allergies. That at least is the inescapable conclusion from reading “This allergy is just nuts,” by Nicholas A. Christakis, professor of medical sociology, Harvard Medical School, in the latest issue of the British Medical Journal.

The article was written in response to the increasingly nutty behavior by schools and parents over the threat from peanuts, which included the evacuation of a school bus full of 10-year olds after a single peanut was spotted on the floor, and the decision by the municipal school where Dr. Christakis’ children attend to mandate collecting wrapped candy gifts, some of which contained sealed tins of nuts, from the loading dock rather than the classroom to prevent endangering the children.

Add to this the general banning of nuts and foods associated with nuts in schools and we have, according to Dr. Christakis, a case of “epidemic hysteria.” The numbers, of course, tell a different story,  he says:

“About 3.3 million Americans are allergic to nuts, and even more – 6.9 million – are allergic to seafood. However, all told, serious allergic reactions to foods cause just 2,000 hospitalisations a year (out of more than 30 million hospitalisations nationwide). And only 150 people (children and adults) die each year from all food allergies combined.”

That’s roughly in the ballpark of the number of people who die from lightning strikes (about 100) each year. Maybe we should build a really big umbrella or stay indoors for the entire spring and summer…


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