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Study Identifies Emotional and Social Concerns of Teens with Food Allergies

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Teens with food allergies are troubled by the social limitations of their food allergies, as well as the burden that this medical condition can place on others, according to the findings of a published study concerning the quality of life of American teenagers with food allergy.

Funded by FAAN (the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network), the study sought to create a validated instrument to measure quality of life. The results were published in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. The survey could be used to help pinpoint emotional and social concerns that could be addressed through counseling.

Earlier studies have shown that adolescents, who are more likely to be risk-takers, have the highest risk of death from food allergy reactions. This instrument may help identify those teens whose quality of life is significantly impacted by food allergies.

Teens also felt limited in their ability to dine out and go on vacation.

The questionnaire was created through a multi-step process involving interviews with teenagers with food allergy and a pre-survey of additional teenagers to create a final survey instrument. This was administered to 203 teens. Overall, teens with a history of anaphylaxis had a lower quality of life than those with no history of anaphylaxis. The survey found that teens were troubled by

  • limitations on social activities,
  • not being able to eat what others eat,
  • the thought of being a burden to others because of their food allergies, and
  • the thought that their school doesn’t provide enough education to others about food allergy.

Teens also felt limited in their ability to dine out and go on vacation. Among the variety of concerns, the researchers were surprised to find that the least impactful ones included carrying an epinephrine auto-injector or wearing medical identification jewelry.

“We use validated surveys like these in research to monitor how treatments hopefully improve life for allergy sufferers,” says Scott H. Sicherer, MD, an author of the study, allergist, and professor at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York. “However, a very important result is that we have learned what areas of daily life are most impacted for these teens, which can help us target individual counseling and general programs for improving their quality of life and safety.”

 

Source: Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, www.annallergy.org.

This article was originally published in Coping® with Allergies & Asthma magazine, March/April 2011.