Baseball, Peanuts & Food Allergies

Baseball in a glove

My husband and I are baseball fans. We have season tickets to our local Major League Baseball team, and we have raised our kids at the ballpark. We recently went to a game where the gentleman seated next to me happily ate a bag full of peanuts, discarding the shells on the ground (as is the accepted norm at outdoor sporting events) and brushing the remnants from his lap towards me. I was aghast: this man was sending his mess onto me without thinking twice about it. Also, peanuts are highly allergic to many people. I have food allergies so, admittedly, I am more aware of these kinds of faux pas than the average person. But it just seemed so rude and, frankly, insensitive, to me. Why would anyone brush their food “trash” onto another person, especially a stranger? And why are so many people so unaware of the potentially life-threatening impact that their mindless acts can have? Luckily, I don’t have a peanut allergy, nor do my allergies include a topical reaction. But what if I did have those types of allergies?

It didn’t end there. As we walked from the ballpark to our car after that same game, we overheard the conversation of two men behind us. They were talking about a family with three children – two very talented, athletic girls and a boy who is “allergic to everything”. As their conversation progressed I heard them laud the physical prowess of the two girls and then one of the men said something about the “wimpy boy”. Perhaps he was referring to some other qualities the boy has beyond his allergies, but the implication I heard was that the boy is a “wimp” because he has allergies. This perception seemed very short-sighted, judgmental and ignorant to me.

And, with that, I started to recall any number of similar experiences I’ve had at the ballpark over the many years I’ve spent there: The guy that spilled beer all over my food and laughed it off by saying, “Who doesn’t love a little beer with their food?” without realizing that he had not only ruined my meal (without offering to replace it) by making it soggy with beer, but that I also have a wheat allergy and couldn’t eat the food even if I wanted to do so. The people in the upper deck who think it’s funny to toss peanut shells down onto those seated in the lower sections. Not to mention the huge amount of processed foods laden with any number of food allergies that are served at stadiums everywhere (although many now offer some gluten-free options).

Food allergies can be very challenging. Food is a unifier, and it can also be socially polarizing. I can’t tell you how many times my clients have relayed stories to me about feeling anxious before going out for a meal. I’ve felt that anxiety myself. “What if they don’t offer food I can eat there, how will I take care of myself?” “How will I react if a stranger comments on my eating habits?” Coping with food allergies can be a very physically and emotionally demanding experience, and can take the fun out of social gatherings and eating.

Then it hit me: Children (and adults) with severe food allergies such as anaphylactic allergies to peanuts probably don’t go to baseball games and other similar events, ever, because it’s just too dangerous for them. Or it’s more effort than it’s worth. So I have jumped on my soapbox (look out, world!) and I’m on a campaign to find a way for kids with food allergies to enjoy the all-American experience of going to a sporting event. I haven’t figured out how I’m going to make that happen yet, but I’m committed to finding a way. Who’s with me?

If you want to help me make it possible for kids to go to sporting events safely, email me at I’ll keep you posted on our progress and let you know how you can get involved. Thank you.

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