Having allergies can be scary but you grow to learn to live with them, to grasp control of your life and get your own processes and checks in place to make sure you stay safe when shopping, eating out, snacking etc.
It’s all about the preparationg and planning.
And it does get easier with time, but you can never let your guard down and become complacent. That danger is lurking around the corner in that flapjack your friend made and assures you is OK, in the snack grabbed on the go, the label you didn’t check because you’ve tried it before and were in a hurry…
Teaching these skills to your child so that they grow to take control of their own life and learn to live with their allergies is no easy challenge.
Just how do you explain the seriousness of allergies to your small child without frightening them?
Allergies can and do kill but luckily in only very rare cases. It can and probably will make you or your child very ill and can also seriously limit how you live your life if you let it. So it’s very important but you don’t want this heavy burden to be on their young shoulders all the time.
So allergy mums all over the world run around making life as normal as possible for their allergic child – and that too can lead to depression and huge stress for parents and carers.
Children with peanut allergy have lower quality of life than diabetic kids
A study in 2003 looked at and compared the quality of life (QOL) of children with type 1 diabetes and children with a peanut allergy.
It found that children with peanut allergy had lower QOL than children with diabetes. This conclusion was reached because of their anxiety around food, fear of eating out, making a mistake and fear of dying.
It is important not to forget the psychological impact that this condition can have on the lives of sufferers and their families.
And this study only looks at the peanut allergic child. Many more children and adults are now allergic to more than one allergen and in some cases, multiple food allergies are becoming more common. Multiply the stress by a hundred!
Avery N , King R, Knight S, O’B Hourihane J. (2003) Paed Allergy Immunol 14 (5) 378-382
In another study doctors looked at the quality of life of the whole family living with an severely allergic child. Read more here:
Valentine AZ, Knibb RC. Appetite. 2011 Oct;57(2):467-74. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2011.06.007. Epub 2011 Jun 25.
This second study shows that it’s the parents who seem to have far lower quality of life than the allergic child.
Participants were asked to take photographs and keep a diary about factors that they believed enhanced and/or limited their quality of life, over a one-week period. Questionnaire analysis showed that parents of children with food allergy had significantly lower quality of life in the social relationships domain and lower overall quality of life than the comparison parents. In contrast, children with food allergy had similar or higher quality of life scores compared to comparison children. Content analysis of photograph and diary data identified ten themes that influenced both child and parental quality of life. It was concluded that although food allergy influenced quality of life for some children, their parent’s quality of life was hindered to a greater extent.
In this study it seems the children don’t appear to have lesser quality of life. Maybe because everything seems normal for them; those caring for them are doing everything they possibly can to ensure their home, school and childhood is as carefree and fun as possible. Making sure they don’t miss out on key experiences or ever get left out because their allergies limit what they can take part in.
Anxiety on some level isn’t such a bad thing, it does mean you and your child remain vigilant and stick to learnt coping mechanisms and safety measures.
Kids with food allergies should never face discrimination or exclusion and schools are moving towards a more inclusive system e.g. the child with the peanut butter sandwich will be ask to sit elsewhere, not the allergic child, which has been the case in the past. If kids with allergies are seen to be treated differently and made to sit alone or on a ‘special’ table this can also lead to bullying and allergy bullying has frightening consequences. Being threatened with the food that could make you seriously ill is terrifying.
Getting used to always, always asking, “Is this OK for me to eat?” or “Can I eat that?” will make adults who may be providing food for your child at nursery, school or their friend’s houses think harder and check again before making hasty decisions.
And that question never goes away. As adults we have to ask that question on a daily basis. Taking risks is not an option.
Life long avoidance is the only answer for those with life threatening food allergies.
If you have kids with allergies, how do you find it affects your quality of life and that of your child? Do you always feel stressed with the added pressure that to ensure your child’s safety you have to get involved more, help out with cookery classes to make sure your child is catered for, supply cakes and treats that are homemade while other mums can enjoy the luxury of buying whatever they choose. You can’t just leave your child at a party, instead you provide the birthday cake so everyone can eat it, you have to manage every situation with military precision.
Spare a thought for allergy mums and allergic people everywhere – we are always working to make ours, yours and our children’s lives as normal as possible with the minimum of fuss.
I’m exhausted just thinking about it and I don’t even have any kids of my own.