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Treating and Living With a Severe Food Allergy

dried, fried peanuts

When Mike McGinn was 11 months old, his parents had him taken to be tested for a peanut allergy. They didn't expect what happened next.

"I was clinically dead for over a minute," he says. "I had the food challenge done, which is giving your child a suspected allergen and seeing what happens. They put a Ritz sandwich cracker in my mouth, and I had an anaphylactic reaction immediately." 

McGinn isn't alone in having a severe peanut allergy. Food sensitivities among children are on the rise. The most common are wheat, peanuts, tree nuts, dairy, seafood, soy and eggs. 

During this hour of Talk of Iowa, McGinn talks with host Charity Nebbe about growing up in Charles City, Iowa avoiding any kind of tree nut contamination in his food. 

"In elementary school, I would go eat my lunch in a separate room when there was something with peanuts on the menu," he says. 

Dr. Jay Brown, an immunologist at McFarland Clinic in Ames; and Peter Thorne, a professor at the University of Iowa who studies environmental and occupational health; and Mike Orlando, who has recenlty opened a gluten and nut free restaurant in Sioux City, also join the conversation. 

Thorne says that according to new research, they might be on the right track to answering why these allergies are on the rise. 

"In the 1960s, mothers were boiling babies' bottles, and doing all this excessive sanitation. And now we think that we might have been doing more harm than good. Now we're telling kids to go play in the dirt because that might be the best thing for them," he says. 

Lindsey Moon is IPR's Senior Digital Producer
Charity Nebbe is the host of IPR's Talk of Iowa