Let’s Address Food Allergy Anxiety
Food allergies take a toll on a family, making practical aspects of life more difficult and creating physical challenges for the person with the food allergy. Yet food allergies and related difficulties also exact a mental toll, especially regarding anxiety.
While it’s important to cover tips that make everyday life easier and to challenge aspects of society that harm our loved ones who have food allergies, it’s also important to be open about how this creates anxiety.
Anxiety for Children and Parents
Food allergy anxiety is a problem both for parents and children. Approximately 90 percent of allergy clinics that took part in the FARE Patient Registry reported allergy patients and parents experiencing this type of anxiety.
As you have experienced yourself, parents face the stress of managing their child’s food allergy on a daily basis. This includes carefully planning every meal and snack while being cautious of cross-contamination. These behaviors can lead to hypervigilance and anxiety.
Of course, you also need to make sure your child remains safe while out of your sight, whether at school, at a friend’s house or at an activity. There is the constant concern that your child could have a severe, possibly life-threatening reaction and the need to always have an epinephrine auto-injector ready just in case.
Children can face anxiety from a food allergy as well. For example, they may experience fear and stress from not knowing what to eat when away from home, and from other children treating them differently because of a food allergy.
Children with this type of anxiety can avoid activities that involve food, face social impairment and miss school. Also, children can experience post-traumatic stress after going through anaphylaxis. Anxiety and related difficulties can greatly interfere with the quality of a child’s daily life.
What You Should Know About Food Allergy Anxiety
In general, it’s important for awareness to spread that food allergies can lead to anxiety in both children and their parents. Keep in mind that a sibling could also experience anxiety from the way a food allergy impacts the family. Be aware that anxiety is something your own family and other families with food allergies could experience, and help spread the word if you feel called to do so.
Also, you should know that some symptoms of anxiety in your child can show themselves in ways that are similar to anaphylaxis. For example, your child could have trouble breathing or a faster heart rate from anxiety rather than these symptoms being from an anaphylactic reaction.
Mild anxiety is not necessarily a problem, but you should seek treatment if the anxiety is getting in the way of everyday functioning. This is the case for both your child and for you as the parent. Of course, a medical professional can diagnose an anxiety disorder and can help you determine the severity of the anxiety and whether treatment is necessary or would be beneficial. Treatment would most likely involve cognitive behavioral therapy.
Here are other ways you can alleviate food allergy anxiety:
Talk to your child in an age-appropriate way about their fears and emotions related to the allergy while allowing them to be open and honest.
Determine steps you can take to quell some of the fears in you and your child.
Create an action plan in case of allergy emergencies and make it easily accessible to everyone.
Read Allergic Living’s Food Allergy Anxiety Guide.
Talk to other parents about anxiety and create a support system for parents and children.
Do you have experiences with food allergy anxiety in your family? What are some strategies you have used that have helped?