As parents of a child with food allergies, sometimes our lives feel like an emotional roller-coaster. We worry about every situation our child is exposed to – new school, new teachers, new friends all have to be briefed about the allergy situation. We’re protective, frustrated, fearful – we’re broken records – sometimes heard, sometimes not. When people don’t understand and are not cooperative, it’s difficult. Just when the people who surround our child know about what is needed to keep her safe, our worries ease up and then suddenly school is out for summer and we have to start all over again.
A recent survey conducted by the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN), a nonprofit and trusted source in food allergies, and Galaxy Nutritional Foods, a leading producer of cheese alternatives, examined parents’ perspectives on the emotional impact that food allergies have on their children.
Nearly 70% of the parents of children with food allergies surveyed said having a food allergy has impacted their child’s quality of life, with 40% indicating their child’s life was impacted “somewhat,” and 29% “a great deal.”
“Food allergies can be life threatening, and when parents send their children off to school, especially for the first time, it can create a great deal of anxiety,” said Maria Acebal, Chief Executive Officer, FAAN. “This survey reveals encouraging data and tells us awareness efforts to help educators better understand the seriousness of food allergy are working.”
The emotional aspects of food allergy, as well as understanding what parents and children are feeling regarding their food allergies, was another survey area of interest. Of those parents surveyed, those who felt food allergy had more of an impact on their child’s quality of life were more likely to express feelings of fear, frustration, and being overwhelmed. While those who indicated a lesser impact on quality of life also experience fear, a near majority also feel empowered and supported. Specifically, the survey found the following:
Parents’ Feelings Regarding Food Allergy
- 90% of parents feel protective
- 62% of parents feel fearful
- 50% of parents feel frustrated
Parents’ Perspective of Child’s Feeling Regarding Food Allergy
- 48% of parents believe their child feels frustrated
- 39% of parents believe their child feels fearful
- 37% of parents believe their child feels isolated
None of this is very surprising to us as it is exactly how we feel, but it is reassuring to know that others are feeling the same way and experiencing the same issues day to day. But now, with all this reassurance it leaves us wondering, “now what?” How can we equalize these feelings of frustration and worry we feel everyday?
For me, courtesy, respect and understanding from others go a long way. When teachers, parents and other kids take the time to listen to our concerns and really care what happens to our daughter – we feel it, we appreciate it so much. This has been the only way we’ve been able to override the worry. But this only happens with education. We need more organizations, parents, decision makers coming together to create policies that will help our children and help educate others about the importance of protecting children with food allergies. Our school currently has no policy in regard to food allergies. Right now we’re in the middle of a painful process of working with the school to keep our daughter safe in the absence of these policies.
We’ve also spent a lot of time preparing our daughter with the knowledge she needs to be safe. We prepare a fun, safe lunchbox and snack for her, complete with placemat and wipes. We coach her relentlessly about what to do in the presence of potentially dangerous food and what she should do if she did have a reaction. But with all this planning and coaching, it’s still unnerving knowing it may not be enough in an emergency situation.
Until we get all this straightened out, we are living on edge and it hasn’t been fun. We’ll share the details here about how we are trying to keep our daughter safe at school, but until then, I find a good workout, pulling weeds, or a walk on the beach go a long way to lessen my frustrations.
Take care friends. Until next time, Lisa
For more information visit New Survey Reveals Emotional Impact of Food Allergy on Children