Tackling Food Allergy Anxiety with SOFAA


PHILADELPHIA, Pa. (Ivanhoe Newswire) – Nearly one in 13 kids, 18 and under, have food allergies. Food Allergy.

For some, even one bite of a certain food can cause a life-threatening reaction.

Imagine that just one bite of a food with nuts, or shellfish, or eggs could cause your child to have a severe reaction, making it difficult for them to breathe. It’s a reality for millions of families and can cause a lot of stress and anxiety. Now, clinicians are using a new evidence-based program to tackle food allergy fears head-on.

It’s our body’s main source of energy. But when someone has food allergies, they take steps to avoid a serious reaction. But when does caution about food ingredients cross the line to an unhealthy fear of food?

“We want them to be careful and checking ingredients when they go to parties and things, what we don’t want is for them to skip the parties or skip going to school,” FAB Clinic Co-Founder, Katherine Dahlsgaard, PhD, expresses.

(Read Full Interview)

Nurse practitioner and FAB Clinic Co-Founder, Megan Lewis, adds, “People start to get worried about airborne exposures and what happens is, they start asking, ‘Should I be checking all the cosmetics? Should I be checking every hair product?’”

The Food Allergy Bravery, or FAB, clinic team also developed a way to measure food allergy anxiety called SOFAA. Kids and parents answer separate surveys that describe their behaviors around unfamiliar people. The survey asks questions like, are kids scared to eat in public? Scared to be touched by someone who might have food on their hands? Scared to smell foods?

Then, a licensed psychologist uses something called proximity exposure therapy to help anxious kids gain comfort around food. For example, she’ll open peanut butter and have kids sniff the aroma.

“What happens from doing that is that the child and the parent get direct experiential proof that smelling peanut butter is not going to lead to anaphylaxis,” Dahlsgaard reassures.

Dahlsgaard says small steps build kids’ confidence around food and help lessen the anxiety.

The Food Bravery Clinic also provides parents with tips to keep kids safer including how to avoid cross contamination from serving utensils, and how to approach workers in restaurants or cafeterias to ask if prepared foods contain their allergens or were cooked on a shared surface.

Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Producer; Roque Correa, Editor.

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REPORT:       MB #5048

BACKGROUND: Food allergy anxiety happens when the fear of encountering an allergen and/or experiencing an allergic reaction interferes with a person’s ability to function on a daily basis. Food allergy anxiety can appear in anyone who has been diagnosed with food allergies or suspects he or she may have a food allergy. Another aspect of food allergy anxiety involves the caregivers of food-allergic individuals who may be afraid to let their children do everyday activities such as going to school. A key indicator of food allergy anxiety is if an individual is choosing to avoid certain things in an attempt to “stay safe” from his or her allergen, such as not going to a friend’s house or avoiding playing sports. Among the children with food allergies, 57 percent reported having symptoms of anxiety compared to 48 percent of children without food allergies.

(Source: https://www.thermofisher.com/allergy/us/en/living-with-allergies/food-allergies/living-with-food-allergy-anxiety.html#:~:text=Food%20allergy%20anxiety%20happens%20when,may%20have%20a%20food%20allergy.


DIAGNOSING: The symptoms of food allergies almost always develop a few seconds or minutes after eating the food. Symptoms include tingling or itching in the mouth, a raised, itchy red rash called hives, swelling of the face, mouth, throat or other areas of the body, difficulty swallowing, wheezing or shortness of breath, and feeling dizzy and lightheaded. Diagnostics can play a role in increasing or decreasing anxiety depending on how the results of the diagnostic are explained to the family, caregiver, and/or allergic individual. Once people know the exact protein(s) they are allergic to, they can work with healthcare providers to establish a plan for managing their allergies and living their lives without fear.

(Source: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/food-allergy/symptoms/


NEW TECHNOLOGY: Every three minutes, a food allergy reaction sends someone to the emergency department, according to estimates. And up to 15 million Americans have potentially deadly food allergies. For the parents of children, food allergies — which now affect 1 in every 13 kids, or roughly two in every classroom — the stress and anxiety can be crippling. In response, entrepreneurs from the Boston-area and across the nation — many with serious allergies themselves — are launching new startups and technologies to help allergy sufferers cope. One compact device doesn’t tell you exactly how much gluten is in foods, but it can detect gluten in concentrations as low as 20 parts per million.

(Source: https://www.wbur.org/news/2016/11/16/allergy-anxiety-products)


Camilla Travia


If this story or any other Ivanhoe story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at mthomas@ivanhoe.com

Doctor Q and A

Read the entire Doctor Q&A for Katherine Dahlsgaard, PhD, ABPP, Co-Founder of FAB Clinic, and Megan Lewis, MSN, CRNP

Read the entire Q&A