Semi-stupid Tuesday questions, Dristan edition

Perhaps you have had cause to be in a medical provider’s office recently.  (If so, I hope your reasons for being there were benign or relatively minor.)  If you have been in a medical office anytime in the past several years (at least), perhaps you’ve noticed a strange collection of medically-themed publications of varying ages and signs of wear.  I have no idea where these publications come from, but my office has several copies of a few vaguely medical magazines displayed in various locations.  I’m guessing we get them free?

Anyhow, I don’t ever look at them, other than the occasional glance in passing.  I think WebMD has a magazine that we keep lying around, and maybe there are one or two more.  But a couple of days ago, a copy of this publication caught my eye — Allergic Living.  It is, apparently, “the magazine for those living with food allergies, celiac disease, asthma and pollen allergies.”  I had no idea that such a thing existed.

Now, I can understand the existence of a lifestyle magazine in which subscribers have only a halfhearted interest.  As I know I’ve mentioned before, I like to run.  A while ago I decided to subscribe to Runner’s World.  I was new to running when I first subscribed, and I thought it might provide Valuable Tips.  And perhaps it does provide valuable tips to runners who are more organized or disciplined than me.  But I don’t do any of the fancy or complicated work-outs they recommend.  I have a pair of shoes I like and when they wear out I go and buy another pair of the same type, so their seemingly endless “buyer’s guides” offer little useful information.  If I have any questions about anything, I ask the nice people at the running store.   I’ve never heard of any of the people they profile, nor do I find much of the content all that interesting.  (Sorry, Peter Sagal!  I love you on “Wait, Wait…”!)   And yet I still subscribe, because every so often I get some little nugget of interest, and I’m the kind of neurotic dope who’s certain that if he stops subscribing then he’ll miss that Truly Valuable Tip that was coming in the next issue.

If they can squeeze out a monthly issue’s worth of content about something about which there really isn’t all that much to say like running, sufficient to keep Runner’s World (and several similar publications) afloat, then I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that Allergic Living is out there, too.  I guess it never occurred to me that people with seasonal allergies or gluten intolerance would think “I’m interested in a magazine devoted to afflictions like mine!”  (I don’t say that to mock.  I’m just genuinely surprised.)  Do people so identify with their allergic status as to want a lifestyle magazine devoted to it?  Is there sufficient fellow-feeling between someone with a tree nut allergy and someone with seasonal rhinitis that they’d read articles about each other?  Since having to avoid gluten and dealing with nasal congestion are such different things, I guess it seems odd to clump them all together.

So my question this week is semi-serious — do you have allergies or food intolerance, and if so would you really be interested in a magazine that delivered monthly insights into lives like yours?  Are there other publications for other illnesses or conditions?  Do people enjoy them?  Should I recommend them to patients?  I’m genuinely curious.

Russell Saunders

Russell Saunders is the ridiculously flimsy pseudonym of a pediatrician in New England. He has a husband, three sons, daughter, cat and dog, though not in that order. He enjoys reading, running and cooking. He can be contacted at blindeddoc using his Gmail account. Twitter types can follow him @russellsaunder1.


  1. I have hay fever that’s not particularly treatable (all the anti-histamines that work well knock me out for multiple hours) , so I sneeze a lot. The very last thing I want is a to read a magazine by and for people who also sneeze a lot.

  2. I get the sneezes and the itches from cats and in springtime. I have twice had severe anaphylaxis of unknown cause. A) While I am aware that a similar mechanism underlies both phenomena, they are in manifestation so wildly different as to have nothing in common. 2) Neither my anaphylactic self nor my sneezy self has any interest in reading a magazine on the topic.

    On the same topic, I have tried reading two parenting-kids-with-special-needs magazines. I think every typical-kid parenting magazine utterly insipid and product-pushing with all the subtlety of The Price is Right. But I am interested in hearing about other parents of special needs kids. One was about all special needs kids in theory, and entirely about autism is practice. Very little about developmental delay or physical disabilities. The other was specifically for parents of medically complex children. Neither was helpful or informative, and I prefer to get a sense of community and tips in other ways.

    The only special interest magazines I read are fashion, cooking, and celebrity gossip. I am entertained by celebrity gossip, partially because I haven’t heard of half of them. NB: I read celebrity gossip while getting my hair done – I do not have a subscription!). I actually do get useful tips/recipes from fashion and cooking mags. Although fashion magazines have their own annoyances which I’ve actually been meaning to post about.

  3. My wife has a number of food allergies (few are serious; most just leave her feeling quite sick), as well as many seasonal allergies (which she just copes with). Putting aside the fact that we don’t subscribe to magazines (thanks interweb!), I could see her being interested in this type of magazine… depending on its contents.

    With food allergies, two big problems are (a) not being able to eat out (at a restaurant or a friends) because you don’t know what they might cook with, and (b) getting bored of the food you can eat. If there are good recipes, that would be a draw. If there is insight into what allergens wind up in what processed food, that would also be helpful. And if it can recommend new “safe” brands of food or “safe” restaurant menus (especially for a large chain), that might be quite useful.

    I don’t know that the benefit of such a magazine would be in fostering one’s sense of identity, but in providing guidance to get around one’s allergies.

    Again, though, it would depend on the contents of the mag.

  4. Fortunately, I have no allergies that I know of.

    But my sister is allergic to all kinds of poultry (but curiously, she can eat eggs just fine). I haven’t had a chance to ask her if she’d read it, but I wonder what that magazine would be titled?

  5. 1. When I was a child, I ate a scallop and my windpipe constricted to a dangerously narrow diameter. Since then I have avoided scallops. Other shellfish are fine. The idea that there would be a magazine called (for instance) “Scallop Avoider’s Monthly” seems more than vaguely silly to me.

    2. Recognize that some food allergies are to more pervasive and subtle products than scallops, like wheat; recognize also that sensitivity to airborne allergens is a whole different animal. As allergies go, scallops are downright pedestrian. Just don’t eat them. Harder to avoid nut oil. Harder still to avoid breathing.

    3. Were “Scallop Avoider’s Monthly” to exist, however, I am sure it would exist in large measure not to satisfy the demand on the part of consumers for scallop-free lifestyle tips and recipies, but rather to alleviate the anxiety of scallop avoiders who felt lonesome in their fear-based eschewment of bivalve food. “What a relief it is to know I am not the only one who is like this!”

    4. It’s a tremendous relief to discover that there are other perfectly normal people just like you. Thus, the existence of atheist magazines. Many atheists think for long periods of time that they are the only ones in existence who do not believe in God because everyone around them says they do. And really, how different is atheism from scallop avoidance? “Oh, you don’t believe in God and you don’t go to church. So… so what? Here, have a magazine.”

    • RE #2 and “nut oil”:

      My sister has a difficult time because there are so many foods that have chicken or chicken broth, that it’s really hard to avoid. And she can’t eat any of it.

  6. I dunno, it sounds like a damn fine magazine.

    I’ll put it on my coffee table, right next to Polyps Lifestyle Journal.

    • As a graduate student, my brother did some work for the public health service evaluating different treatments for Hanson’s disease, which was eventually published in a medical journal. It would also have been a nice feature for Better Homes and Leprosy.

  7. Did supply create demand? Someone saw a market to cornwr, made the mags, and folks said, “Hey! That’s for me!”

  8. “Do people so identify with their allergic status as to want a lifestyle magazine devoted to it?”

    Lots of people these days identify with anything that separates them from the rest of humanity, especially if makes them feel *special*. Maybe this has always been true, but without mass media nobody was aware of it.

    I have no major allergies and so am empathy-deficient in this area.

    And has there been a huge increase in allergies these last few decades? Serious allergies seemed rare back in the 60s and 70s, now… well just read your magazine.

  9. Personally, I might not choose to read such a magazine were I sitting at home and found myself with 10 uninterrupted minutes, but were I trying to overcome the whole “doctor’s waiting room limbo” thing, I might pick it up.

    I’ve read Sports Illustrated issues devoted to basketball in such a position, after all.

  10. I have myriad allergies, and no interest in such a magazine (unless stuck in a doctor’s office with nothing else to read, something I try to avoid).

    But then, when I want reassurance that I’m not the only weirdo dealing with issue X, I have a whole big Internet to remind me.

  11. My wife, who has a gluten intolerance, has appreciated finding recipes online for meals. I could see her looking through a magazine that offered something of the sort, especially as our kids have even more food allergies (dairy, gluten, soy).

  12. I suspect I can shed some light here. We get calls every now and then from magazine publishers to create magazines that are meant to be glossy, stealth marketing pieces. I suspect your Allergy magazine is one such magazine.

    The way it works is that your company provides the content of the bigger stories, and usually they quote you (or are actually about you). They put in a some more cut and paste generic content, and close-to-free advertising to other companies that have ads in all of their pho-mags, and then they send them free to your prospect and client base. This is made to make you and your company look like an industry leader.

    I suspect that a pharmaceutical company paid for the printing and sent it to your office for free.

    • This was my first thought as well, coming from the doctor’s office this morning and having seen such a thing myself. A whole magazine about omega-3 fatty acids.

  13. I’m lactose intolerant. Only, it’s a bit more than that. As Jason says, I’m the Fred Phelps of lactose intolerance. I can lose substantial weight if I accidentally ingest, say, a sandwich made with bread sweetened with whey, because of difficulty eating and digesting for a day or two. I can take pills with the occasional treat of pizza or a brownie, but I can’t keep that up day after day. So, I pretty much just try to avoid any hidden lactose. It took me a long time to figure out my extreme thinness was due to my love of dairy foods. I was 5′ 10″ and weighed 92 pounds my senior year of high school. Now I’m up to 140 lbs (at the same height), which is a healthy weight for me, and which has been stable since ~2003 when I went 100% lactose-free.

    A publication on lactose intolerance might have been a big help to me along the way, helping me to recognize symptoms. It might still be useful for listing unexpected lactose-containing foods, relative effectiveness of lactase pills, new lactose-free products, etc. Jason has a lot of tricks he’s developed over the years for lactose-free cooking, and those tricks and recipes could certainly help others.

    My brother has a similar story regarding wheat gluten, and he and his wife similarly scour the infoverse for help keeping him healthy. A good magazine devoted to that topic might be useful, too.

    There are good web sites devoted to these topics, so the value of a paper publication might be low, but yes, I could certainly see the value.

    • I actually thought of you when I saw the magazine, since the issue I saw had a blurb on the cover about lactose intolerance, apparently related to an article inside. My initial reaction to the publication had been “you must be joking,” and then I wondered if you might have had a different take.

  14. I have severe allergy induced asthma; severe enough that I’ve nearly died from it (it’s a really weird experience to have a doctor look at you very seriously and say, “we thought we’d lost you”), but I wouldn’t have any interest in such a magazine. When I want to learn more about asthma issues, there’s this marvelous thing called the web.

    Which really makes me boggle at WebMD magazine. We need a magazine for a website? I was in my doctor’s office this morning (yes, for benign and minor issues, fortunately), and was outraged to discover WebMD had replaced the three year old Sports Illustrateds that I had not yet finished reading.

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