Kids' Food Allergies Affect Parents
Challenges Include Food Shopping, Cooking, and Social Activities, Study Shows
WebMD News Archive
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
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
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.
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
- 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.
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
Control Is Key
Bollinger's team writes that a "large" number of participants -- 34%
to 68% -- noted that food allergy significantly affected school activities.
Also, half or more noted significant food-allergy impact on social activities
outside the home.
"Unless the child brings their 'safe' foods with them to outside events,
the families are relying on others (as well as their child) to have sufficient
knowledge of label reading and cross-contamination issues to provide a safe
diet," write Bollinger and colleagues.
"The reality is that even in the most careful and educated environments,
most food allergic children have exposures that lead to reactions," the
Some kids in the study also had asthma and skin allergies, but that didn't
change the results, the researchers write. Bollinger's team suggests that
future research should check how food allergies -- and related social
restrictions -- affect kids.
Meanwhile, a journal editorial calls Bollinger's study
The survey, designed by Bollinger's team, is an "exciting new tool that
will help to better evaluate needs and tailor care for food-allergic children
and their families," write editorialists Stacie Jones, MD, and Amy
Jones and Scurlock work in Little Rock, Ark., at the University of Arkansas
for Medical Sciences and Arkansas Children's Hospital.