Taking care of a child with a food allergy can be a nerve-wracking experience and a cause of worry for parents. It holds true even more in case the family is from a low socioeconomic background. Apart from ensuring that the child does not take foods causing allergy, it is also necessary to keep a stock of epinephrine auto-injectors, which expire annually and are expensive. Epinephrine auto-injectors are life savers in case a child eats something that he or she may be allergic to and develop an anaphylactic reaction.
A recent study conducted by researchers from the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, Ferkauf Graduate School of Psychology and Albert Einstein College of Medicine has tried to unveil the association between food allergy and childhood anxiety. 80 children aged four to 12 years with low socioeconomic status were selected for the study. The sample consistent of children both with and without a food allergy. The impact of the allergy on their caregivers was studied as well. It was observed that 57 percent children with a food allergy had anxiety issues as opposed to 48 percent who did not report any such condition.
According to lead author Renee Goodwin, Ph.D., of the department of epidemiology at Mailman School of Public Health, "These statements could result in higher levels of anxiety for those with fewer financial resources and further heightened anxiety symptoms in children and their caregivers . "
One of the reasons why children with a food allergy might be more prone to developing an anxiety disorder could be that they feel isolated and bullied both at school and at home where their siblings might be eating all that they are prohibited. The stress of avoidance of favorite foods and having limited choices exacerbates the anxiety. In such situations, it is important for the adults, whether parents, teachers or caregivers, to take measures that could alleviate the child's anxiety.
Developing copying behaviors in response to allergy-induced anxiety
One of the best ways of addressing anxiety arousing due to food allergies is ensuring that the child knows about the dangers. Brushing things under the carpet can only exacerbate the condition and make the child more fearful and nervous.
Given below are some tips to help parents tackle such situations:
- Normalizing the home environment : While a child's allergy could be a cause of worry, it is important that right from the time the diagnosis, things are normalized at home. Stress at home will make the child more worried. Siblings should be informed about the condition and encouraged not to act as bullies.
- Being watchful about their own anxiety spilling over: Parents of children with allergies are more anxiety prone. They have a constant urge to be by their child's side. As a result, their anxiety spills over and the child becomes more nervous about the situation. The child must be encouraged to face the situation bravely and given space to grow and learn.
- Diffusing a tense situation: Children with allergy to specific food items know they have to practice restraint. They may end up in situations where they have to refuse food offered by friends and peers, which might be offensive to them. In order to diffuse such a situation, it is necessary that the child learns appropriate responses. A simple refusal, such as "excuse me, but I can not have cupcakes because I am allergic to eggs or wheat," helps.
- Training the child to read labels and handling auto-injectors: Apart from training the child about the know-how of auto-injectors, it is essential to teach the child how to read the labels of food items as well and identify ingredients that could trigger an allergic reaction. It is also essential to train caregivers in emergency help services.
If the child's anxiety increases by the day, it is best to seek the help of a therapist.
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