Food allergies stress parents

By HSC Staff Writer • Published: June 27th, 2006
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Imagine worrying day-in and day-out about what your child eats… at home, at school, at parties. Imagine fearing that a routine food could send your child to the emergency room… or worse.

Parents of children with food allergies deal with these worries, and they’re getting stressed because of it, according to a new report.

Triggered by the immune system, severe allergic reactions send almost thirty-thousand people to U-S emergency rooms each year. The top eight food allergens… milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, soy and wheat… account for ninety percent of all documented food allergies.

University of Maryland researchers recently surveyed eighty-seven families at an allergy practice based at a university children’s hospital. Their questionnaire… the first of its kind… measured parents’ perceptions of how food allergy affects the daily lives of food-allergic children and their families.

More than sixty percent of those surveyed said food allergies significantly affected meal preparation. Half reported allergies affected family social activities. And fifty-three to seventy percent said allergies limited playing at friends’ houses or attending social events. Just planning for these situations causes parental anxiety.

Researchers also found food allergies significantly affected school activities by limiting attendance, field trips and school parties. And ten percent of caregivers chose to homeschool their child because of food allergy.

In the wake of the study, here’s some food for thought: Awareness is key to understanding… and, ultimately, the first step toward better coping with… the stresses of living with children’s food allergies.