Peanut allergy. Now, what is that?!

Well, that’s how my parents in India reacted when they offered a biscuit(with nuts layered on top) to a kid but the kid’s parents refused it fearing allergic reaction due to the nuts. You see in India well….at-least in the society that I grew up in the only allergy that was ever heard of is dust allergy. More often than not the ones that claimed to have dust allergy were the ones trying to escape a cleaning, sweeping, dusting chore in the house. My sister always used to claim to have dust allergy and would start sneezing as soon as a broom was handed over to her. So, she would end up wiping the floor. Couldn’t say allergic to water ah?! Could she?!

In a country like India being a vegetarian is not a uncommon thing. Peanuts are an extremely rich, important source of protein for vegetarians. Some of the most delicious vegetarian dishes are those that consist of combination of ‘roasted peanuts, garlic, dried red chilies’ masala.

When people like my parents express shock over the existence of so many allergies abroad particularly USA; one naturally wonders why is that kids in developed countries increasingly seem to be suffering from multitude of allergies that seem to be treated as life threatening more often than not.

When I arrived in USA I came to hear from some of my friends whose allergic reactions to pollen got worse during fall and early spring season. Until then the last time I had heard of the word ‘pollen’ was in the science class during my school days. I always had a very positive image of pollen etched to my memory as they are nature’s primary means to achieve fertilization in plant to form the fruit from the flower with the help of pollinators such as bees, birds, wind etc. I came to understand that allergies were so much part of the American lifestyle that there is a regular allergy forecast in the news hour just as there is a weather forecast! There is even a detailed hourly forecast of the levels of oak, pine etc present in the air throughout the day!

Peanuts 11-7-08

The popularity of the flu shots and the awareness drive to take the shots that is so much evident during the fall and spring season was indeed fascinating to observe.

It is only when I got to interact with families with kids that I realize that a whole new chapter of allergies was waiting to be known.

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