Food allergy fear


Parents of children with food allergies face worry, anxiety and post-traumatic stress, according to new research from the University of East Anglia.

Between six and eight per cent of children suffer a food allergy – with eggs, milk, and peanuts being the most common causes. They can cause vomiting, cramps, hives, swelling, eczema, breathing problems and in severe cases anaphylactic shock, which can lead to hospitalisation or death.

The new study finds that more than 80 per cent of parents face ‘significant worry’ about their child’s food allergy: 42 per cent met the clinical cut-off for post-traumatic stress symptoms (PTSS) and 39 per cent reported moderate to extremely severe anxiety.

Parents whose children need an adrenaline auto-injector (for example an Epipen) were found to be seven times more likely to experience PTSS.

Dr Kate Roberts, one of the team who carried out the study, says: ‘Caring for a child with a food allergy can be really challenging – not least because they can be exposed to the foods they are allergic to, even with very careful management. We wanted to see how the parents of children with food allergies were affected by anxiety, worry and PTSS.’ The study involved 105 parents of children with medically diagnosed food allergies and around half of the children had been rushed to hospital at least once because of an allergic reaction.

‘The study highlights the need for greater awareness about the mental health problems that parents of children with food allergies may be experiencing,’ adds Dr Roberts.