FAACT

Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis

Psychological Impacts for Families Living with Food Allergy

Food allergy may affect as many as 15 million Americans, including 6 million children, and is a growing concern. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), between 1997 and 2011, the prevalence of food allergies rose 50 percent.

Food allergies require considerable time to manage and constant vigilance, which can pose a burden for both the food-allergic individual and his or her caregiver. Caregivers’ and food-allergic individuals’ quality of life is often negatively affected. Another source of anxiety may be harassment of the food-allergic individual. For information on bullying and harassment, please visit our bullying page.

Several groups in the US and in Europe are hard at work to learn more about what affects quality of life in food allergy among caregivers and patients of all ages.  Quality of life is an important patient-oriented outcome, and key to understanding the psychological impact of food allergy.

Although several studies have demonstrated poor quality of life of caregivers of food-allergic children and the negative impact of food allergy, more data is needed. In recent studies, caregivers of children who were seen in the emergency room within the past year for a food-allergic complication felt the most burden among caregivers. Similarly, caregivers of children managing multiple food allergies, allergic to specific foods, and/or who have more knowledge about food allergy were significantly likely to have a poorer quality of life.

All children must be given the opportunity to make new friends, develop more autonomy, expand their social skills, and improve their problem-solving skills in social situations. There may be a tendency for parents to try to shield food-allergic children from adversity and risk. However, although food allergy may restrict a child’s social interactions, the goal is to provide as normal a childhood experience as possible. Excessive or long-standing restrictions (e.g., isolation at meal times or policies that result in limiting the child’s participation in celebrations) could result in increased social isolation and associated feelings of depression or social anxiety. So it is important to provide a as inclusive an environment as possible for the food-allergic child to foster these developmental stages.

Impact of Food Allergies on the Daily Activities of Children and Their Families

Food allergies affect everyone in the family. In surveys of parents or caregivers of children with food allergies,  

  • 60 percent reported that food allergies significantly affected meal preparation.

  • 49 percent or more indicated that food allergies affected family social activities.

  • 41 percent reported a significant impact on their stress levels.

  • 34 percent reported that food allergy had an impact on the child’s school attendance.

  • 10 percent choose to home-school their children because of food allergies.

  • 50 percent or more indicated that food allergies significantly affected their family social activities.

  • 58 percent thought that food allergy affected their child’s “playing at friends’ house.”

  • 53-70 percent reported that activities such as birthday parties and sleepovers were significantly affected by food allergies.

  • 59 percent reported school field trips were affected by food allergies.

  • 68 percent reported school parties were affected by food allergies.

The number of food allergies had a significant impact on activity scores, but the addition of other conditions, such as asthma and eczema, did not significantly affect the results.

FAACT

Children with more than two food allergies and their parents report poor quality of life.[1]

References:

[1] “The Impact of Food Allergy on the Daily Activities of Children and Their Families.” Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 2006;96:415-421.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20934628

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17069092

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16597075 

“The Impact of Food Allergy on The Daily Activities of Children and Their Families”

Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 2006;96:415-421.

“Variations in Quality of Life Among Caregivers of Food Allergic Children”

Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 2010;105:287-294.

“Allergic Diseases and Their Impact On Quality of Life”

Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 2006;97:419-429.