Food Allergy 101: Bad, bad baby wipes

Thursday baby wipe.jpg

What if my food allergy was a real, live person? And what if I could talk to him about what he's taught me over the years? Every Thursday, I get that chance...

Mr. A, my allergy, is holding three large grocery bags as he approaches my table at the library.

"Good morning," he says.

I nod.

He sits in the seat directly beside me, hovering as he always does, and reaches into a bag.

"They were having a great sale today!" he says enthusiastically as he pulls out a package of baby wipes.

I look at him but don't say anything. I've learned a long time ago that I don't have to engage with him just because he's near.

He reaches in again and pulls out another package. And then another. And another. 

"Did your Mom ever use these when you were a baby?" he asks, as he opens one of the packages. "I bet she was one of those thorough mothers who cleaned you really really really really well."

He laughs and I ignore him. Mom is off limits.

He puts the opened package to his nose and inhales deeply. 

"I love this chamomile scent," he says presenting the package to me.

I wave him away.

He reaches into his bag again. And again. There are now six different brands of baby wipes on the table. 

"Aren't you going to ask me why I have all these baby wipes?" 

I ignore him. I know why he is trying to get me to talk about baby wipes. I'm not taking his bait. 

Last week's news about a study that supposedly linked baby wipes to causing food allergies garnered a lot of attention. The information was taken out of context, of course, and sensationalized guilt-inducing headlines fueled the flames. One thing Mr. A has taught me over the years is to be skeptical when a headline about my allergy seems too ambitious. Click bait. Nothing more. 

At the end of the week, my mom could rest assured knowing that her using baby wipes on me when I was an infant did not cause my food allergy. 

Mr. A holds a wipe directly in front of his face and inhales. "Do you ever realize that unscented isn't really unscented?" he says. "Unscented has a scent."

He is smiling broadly as he reaches for his phone and starts scrolling through his news feed. He begins to read headlines out loud. 

"You should see some of these," he says. "I love keeping people on the edge of their seats. I love false hope. I love making moms feel guilty."

I grab my earbuds from my bag and put them in my ears. I stare at him for an instant just before I turn on my playlist. As I watch him toss an individual wipe in the air trying to get it to land on his face like a blanket, one thought crosses my mind: "Unscented really does has a scent."


JJ Vulopas is a junior at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. An advocate for young people, JJ has lived with food allergies his entire life. He is the author of the children's book, Land of Not. You can read his daily blog at Follow him on Instagram & Twitter @thelandofcan.