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Parents are Nuts


The allergy epidemic in American kids cannot have a biological origin, argues Joel Stein:

Yes, a tiny number of kids have severe peanut allergies that cause anaphylactic shock, and all their teachers should be warned, handed EpiPens and given a really expensive gift at Christmas. But unless you're a character on "Heroes," genes don't mutate fast enough to have caused an 18% increase in childhood food allergies between 1997 and 2007.

And genes certainly don't cause 25% of parents to believe that their kids have food allergies, when 4% do. Yuppiedom does.

But an essay by Harvard doctor and social scientist Nicholas Christakis in the British Medical Journal -- which I read in between my perusal of Classical Philology and the IEEE Journal of Quantum Electronics -- makes more or less the same argument. Christakis, who did a famous study showing that having fat friends makes you fat, wrote that parental responses "bear many of the hallmarks of mass psychogenic illness."

If you don't think allergic reactions can be caused by mass hysteria, then you don't know about the uncontrollable dancing that gripped thousands of Europeans between the 14th and 18th centuries, or that the South Korean government recently issued a consumer safety alert saying that electric fans can asphyxiate you if left running overnight, after news reports of several deaths. You, in short, have never looked up "mass hysteria" on Wikipedia.

H/T: Newmark’s Door