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Allergies Health Center

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Kids' Food Allergies Affect Parents

Challenges Include Food Shopping, Cooking, and Social Activities, Study Shows
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

March 24, 2006 -- Parents take special care to tend to their kids' food allergies, new research shows.

About 2% to 8% of children have food allergies. Some food allergies can be severe and even life-threatening. People with food allergies must strictly avoid their trigger foods, and that means extra work for parents of kids with food allergies, note the University of Maryland's Mary Bollinger, DO, and colleagues.

Bollinger's team studied 87 families with children treated at the University of Maryland Allergy Practice for food allergies. Parents completed a survey covering topics including grocery shopping, meal preparation, and kids' social activities.

Most parents reported that their child's food allergy significantly affected meal preparation, grocery shopping, and social activities. The study appears in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.

Detailed Data

Most of the children in Bollinger's study were allergic to peanuts, tree nuts, or shellfish. On average, they avoided four foods due to food allergies, the study shows.

Results from the parents' survey include:

  • 71% said their child's food allergy significantly affected meal planning for that child.
  • 60% said their child's food allergy significantly affected meal planning for the whole family.
  • 76% said their child's food allergy significantly affected grocery shopping.
  • Nearly eight in 10 said their child's food allergy significantly affected family trips to restaurants.
  • The more food allergies a child had, the greater impact those allergies had on family life.

Shopping, cooking, and eating weren't the only areas of concern that stood out in the surveys. Kids' food allergies also had a major social impact, Bollinger's team finds.

Social Consequences

Out-of-home activities -- including birthday parties, camp, school field trips, and sleepovers at friends' houses -- were often affected by kids' food allergies, the survey shows.

One in 10 parents said they homeschooled their child because of the child's food allergies. Other parents said they avoided letting their child take part in these activities:

  • Playing at friends' houses: 11%
  • Day care or after-school care: 14%
  • School parties or birthday parties: 10%
  • Sleepovers at friends' houses: 26%
  • Camp: 26%

While relatively few parents totally banned those activities, many noted that their child's food allergy had significantly affected those activities.

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