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Peanut Epidemic: A Case Of Media Exaggeration

1719 words - 7 pages

Peanuts are one of the most prevalent food allergens worldwide, and it has become a nemesis for many in recent years. Peanut allergies have been known to be life threatening, but only a few sufferers react with such extreme severity when exposed to peanuts. While peanut allergies have long-existed, it seems like it was very rarely heard of prior to the 1980s. In the last decade, peanut allergies have become the focus of media attention and controversy. However, the media is not as accurate as the public understands it to be. The sensationalized media reports, especially those publicized in the United States, on the subject of peanut allergy led to unnecessary public concern that created a larger spectacle of the issue than it is supposed to be.
A food allergy is an exaggerated immune response triggered by a particular protein found in an allergen. Different people have different allergic reactions; ranging from mild to life threatening, whereby an anaphylactic reaction takes place. Symptoms of the allergic diseases may be caused by exposure of the skin to a chemical, of the respiratory system to particles of dust or any other substance, or of the stomach and intestines to a particular food (“What Is Food Allergy?”). In the last few decades, there seems to be an increased media and medical interest on the subject of allergies in general, but mostly on peanut allergies. According to Miranda Waggoner, a Princeton University researcher, no medical research agenda can be found prior to the 1980s. Are peanut allergies really getting more severe and prevalent that the medical community now puts a little more effort into studying the disorder? Or are people just more aware now that word travels faster than ever through the World Wide Web?
In actuality, there is a legitimate rise in the percentage of peanut allergy sufferers that is particularly evident in the United States. In a follow-up study published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, 1.4% of American children were diagnosed with peanut allergies in 2008, compared to the 0.8% in 2002, and 0.4% in 1997 (Sicherer et al. 1322). According to research, although many often outgrow their allergies, there are a few allergies that children seldom outgrow; one of which is peanut allergy. Furthermore, in extreme cases, peanuts can cause anaphylaxis. An anaphylactic reaction can be fatal, as the sufferer will experience some trouble breathing due to constricted airways, a sudden and drastic drop in blood pressure, and have an increased pulse rate. If not treated immediately with injections of epinephrine, it will lead to death (Waggoner 49). As of today, the best way to prevent such fatal things from happening is to just stay away from peanuts altogether.
Unfortunately, sufferers can only control their home environment by not using products that contain peanuts, and maintaining a peanut-free diet. Therefore, no matter how careful one is, there is no guarantee that the sufferer will not come...

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