Living with food allergies can be stressful, but it can be so much more than that. Research is proving that people with one or more diagnosed food allergies see real and negative impacts on their quality of living and everyday well-being. While the focus is often on children with food allergies and immediate safety needs, many of these children will grow into adults and will still have allergies. These people have to live with food allergies, and it’s important to understand how they can impact quality of life on a daily basis.
Living with Fear
One of the most obvious and immediate ways that food allergies impact individuals and families is the fear of anaphylaxis. When a food, especially a common food ingredient, can be life-threatening, it can create a huge amount of fear and anxiety. Surveys and studies have found that anxiety and fear over food safety is a daily issue—for adults living with allergies, for children and for families. Parents have described it as multiplying the typical fears for your child by one million.
The Stress of Food Planning
While most people eat and shop without much thought given to the consequences, those living with food allergies have a whole host of concerns: the costs of safe foods, difficulty maintaining a safe and healthy diet, the risk of making a mistake with foods and ingredients, and the stress of planning for what and how to eat at social events.
This is particularly an issue for children with food allergies. A child may be ostracized by peers for being different and is at an increased risk for bullying because of having a food allergy. Children with food allergies are often necessarily singled out in social settings, especially at school. Social activities are naturally more complicated for a child with an allergy. He or she, and the parents, must plan ahead, worry about the child’s safety at the event or activity, and avoid foods with the allergen. Children with food allergies are also more likely to miss days of school or to miss activities and events.
Quality of Life for Parents
While many studies have looked at children and adults living with food allergies, some have also investigated the impact of food allergies on parents. The results are clear that these parents have lower quality of life markers. They score lower on quality of life surveys and tests, and they report more fear and anxiety, greater stress and greater disruption to everyday life and daily activities within the household. Mothers measure lower for quality of life than fathers.
Taking Back Your Life
Whether you’re the parent or the person living with the food allergy, the news is pretty glum: food allergies lower your quality of life every day. You can fight back, though. Studies have found that simply getting a definite diagnosis of a food allergy can reduce stress. Taking steps to manage food allergies and manage risk can also reduce fear and stress. Parents can reduce fear by educating and involving their child in planning and learning how to manage food allergies and make good food choices. Talking to your doctor is also important. He or she can help you find solutions to the toll that food allergies take on your daily life, including pointing you to other professionals.