You Be The Judge: What Makes Anaphylaxis So Funny?


While making fun of people with life-threatening diseases — say cancer or diabetes — is largely off-limits, the media has no problem mocking food allergies and anaphylaxis, effectively turning it into a trope.

Which brings us to this installment of our “You Be the Judge” series, where we present a food allergy-related scenario and invite you to share your opinions.

In the past, we excoriated NBC and Ricky Gervais for his comedy routine on The Tonight Show where he described a peanut ban on an airliner as “not his problem” and his plans for the next trip, when he would rub nuts all over his body so when a passenger suffered an anaphylactic reaction, they wouldn’t know he was the cause.

Then there was the Peter Rabbit movie aimed at kids, where Peter and his friends attack the nephew of his nemesis with blackberries, knowing he is allergic. When a berry falls into the nephew’s mouth, he becomes ill and has to stab himself in the leg with an auto-injector. (Remember the #boycottpeterrabbit hashtag?)

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Earlier in the month, Uber caused an uproar with a Super Bowl commercial that showed a man eating peanut butter suffering full-blown anaphylaxis because he “forgot” he was allergic. That took the outrage of the entire community before the scene was edited out.

Given the pushback each incident caused, you would think the entertainment media would learn from past mistakes, but you would be wrong.

Earlier this week, Jess, a character in the “Love is Blind” reality franchise on Netflix, told Jimmy, another cast member who cut ties with her:

When you see and realize what you missed out on, you are going to choke. You are going to need your EpiPen to open up your airways because you are going to be in disbelief of what you missed out on.

Jess from “Love is Blind”
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She later explained her statement in an Instagram Post:

I don’t own an Epipen. But in one of my earlier dates with Jimmy—we had so many and obviously most of our dates weren’t shown—but he told me that he had to keep an EpiPen on him at all times because he had such severe allergies, his airwaves would close if he didn’t have it.

So, when I was giving my breakup speech, which wasn’t planned or rehearsed. I was just heartbroken and I blacked out and… the EpiPen line just fell out and happened to go with everything.

Really? It “just fell out?” That seems much more like rehearsed dialog and a subsequent attempt to shift blame, but it doesn’t explain why Netflix didn’t edit the comment from the show before airing it.

In this case, drama and poor taste trumped sensitivity in pursuit of ratings. We think that by doing so, anaphylaxis was again made the butt of a joke diminishing its life-threatening status in the minds of others.

So now we turn to you, our readers — knowledgeable in all things food allergy — and ask you to render your opinion: Are we inviting to this type of rhetoric by being so thin-skinned or should we redouble our efforts and push back even harder the next time?

You be the judge and sound off in the comments section below.

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Dave Bloom
Dave Bloom
Dave Bloom is CEO and "Blogger in Chief" of

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  1. I think you are spot on with your opening line…”While making fun of people with life-threatening diseases — say cancer or diabetes — is largely off-limits, the media has no problem mocking food allergies and anaphylaxis, effectively turning it into a trope.”

    Nobody makes fun of other illness that cause death. We are not being too thin skinned. I can guarantee that people would approach it differently if they saw one of their loved ones having an anaphylactic reaction and raced to the ER hoping that all would be well or worse yet, losing that loved one to an allergic reaction.

  2. When it comes to life or death it is not “thin skinned” at all. Why should someone have a right to make fun of something that could kill someone else?

    Ricky Gervais showed his lack of care for anyone other than himself. The Peter Rabbit movie encouraged bullying among children. The Uber commercial simply displayed ignorance of allergies, quite likely stemmed from people who don’t like certain foods, claiming allergy instead.

    I personally have an allergy and anaphylactic reaction to almost all tree nuts. I have a sensitivity to bananas and I don’t like potatoes. I have children with sensitivities and grandchildren with allergies and sensitivities.

    Weighing in on the Love is Blind comment, I would have taken that comment more as a way of describing the severity of his loss. She may be over rating herself though. I am sure he went on without her in his life.

  3. I personally have food allergies myself and a person would have to stoop so low to make fun of a life threatening allergy. It’s not funny when someone has to go to the ER or worse because of a food allergy reaction. It’s a life or death situation. People with food allergies have to deal with enough as it is because keeping track of foods you eat every day is a daily routine and something that we have to do to avoid a reaction or a trip to the hospital. It also makes me shake my head when parents get upset that they can’t send cupcakes to school for birthdays or classroom parties. There are many alternatives instead of food (sending stickers or small inexpensive non food items instead). I also believe that some family members just don’t understand until they actually witness someone having a food allergy reaction. Some family members also have the nerve to joke about food allergies or deny that a family member is allergic to a food.

  4. So many people claim to be allergic to a food when it is either a dislike, or an intolerance that saying you are allergic has become a joke 🙁 because for many (most?) it doesn’t actually mean a severe event.

    We also equate the word allergy with the sneezing and itchy runny eyes of seasonal allergies that it is difficult for the uninitiated to understand that a food allergy is different.

    It should not be joke fodder, but the language is not helping us be taken seriously 🙁

  5. I hope my kid grows up to be a very thick skinned man and knows how to deal with ignorant people. That’s all.

  6. Are we being too thinned skinned? I think not! I could hardly keep my composure while reading that article. All it takes is one bite of something you are allergic too, and it can instantly become a matter of life and death. Life can be challenging enough to navigate through, then add food allergies to the mix….I’m a retired preschool teacher, and when I’d say “no”, I’d get the dirtiest looks from parents who wanted to bring in treats for their child’s birthday. Some even pleaded with me to “just this once” can you make an exception?” Nope, not on my watch. I wasn’t trying to win a popularity contest, my job was to keep the children save. I myself have allergies to peanuts, tree nuts, seeds, coconut, and artificial sweetener. I ended up in the emergency room once. and it was terrifying.
    Food allergies are no a joke! Period!!!!

  7. It sounds like she reinforced his decision. Who would want to be with a person who thinks a life-threatening allergy is something to use against someone?

  8. Well, she is an awful person to wish possible death on someone over a break up. Education is key here! If you know what you are implicating just refrain. To watch your child die in front of your eyes because you or paramedics did not inject her w Epinephrine is THE most horrible thing to live with. It really happens for all the clueless out there.

  9. I don’t believe it is ever funny to make a joke about a disability. Especially a life threatening disability. Food allergies are just that, though. While “technically” covered by the ADA, they don’t appear to be actively covered by the ADA at all. If it was, people with food allergies could safely eat anywhere as the proper training would be required to be given to ALL persons in the food industry. Food ingredient lists would be made available for each dish and be consistently the same ingredients without fail. “May contain” statements would be a requirement and not a “courtesy”. The same way that businesses are required to have handicapped access, people with food allergies should be able to safely eat (whether at a restaurant OR when simply consuming a prepackaged food). Something needs to change and we are the only ones that can make it change!


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