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January 22, 2021 05:00am
By Aislinn Antrim, Associate Editor
Many caregivers reported that their child’s peanut allergy negatively impacts their job or career, suggesting potential socioeconomic impacts on families.
Coping with peanut allergies is largely driven by fear of accidental exposure and allergic reaction, according to a study from Aimmune Therapeutics. The investigators found that his fear and stress can have major emotional and social effects for children and teens with peanut allergies as well as their caregivers.
According to Aimmune, the APPEAL-2 study was designed to explore several ways that peanut allergies impact youth and caregivers. Patients with these allergies frequently experience frustration, stress, uncertainty, and low levels of confidence in managing their allergy, according to the study’s results.
“In their own words, children, teens, and their caregivers revealed the day-to-day difficulties of living with peanut allergy, and how the lack of societal awareness impacts their emotional and social development,” said investigator Audrey Dunn Galvin, PhD, in a statement.
The investigators found that most teenagers reported negative experiences when going to restaurants, including embarrassment at having to declare their allergy or being treated unkindly by staff. A quarter of teens also reported that their allergy impacted dating and romantic relationships.
Nearly a third of children and a small number of teenagers said they did not want others to know about their allergy and actively chose not to disclose it. Some said this was because of embarrassment, while others said it was to avoid teasing or bullying. Nearly all children and teens reported a negative impact on their social activities, adding that they avoided social situations as a strategy of disease management. They also felt left out or envious because they feel unable to attend social events, and several participants reported incidents of teasing or bullying.
The researchers also found significant impacts on caregivers, who reported many of the same emotional impacts. Over a third reported that their child’s allergy had a negative impact on their work or career, including having to take time off and limiting their working hours. The authors emphasized that this could illustrate a potential socioeconomic impact for families with peanut allergies.
Caregivers also reported that buying and preparing food was a major, time-consuming aspect of managing their child’s allergy, and often mentioned the need to determine suitable places to eat and the nearest hospital or pharmacy before going out. Nearly a quarter of respondents said they prefer to avoid social events if peanuts were served or if they would have no control over the environment, and some caregivers did not allow their children to attend social events.
The authors noted that this caregiver anxiety is rooted in a lack of control. Approximately half of caregivers reported that they worry about having less control over their child’s food and environment as the child ages and becomes increasingly independent.
Although these findings reveal frustration and fear for children with peanut allergies and their parents, the researchers also noted several opportunities to reduce the burden of living and coping with such allergies. Education is vital in order to increase awareness and understanding, among both the general public and health care professionals. They also recommended adding clearer and more meaningful precautionary allergen food labeling, as well as developing more informative communication around food allergen risks and safety.
Largest European Qualitative Study on Peanut Allergy Highlights Negative Impact of Avoidance and Fear of Accidental Peanut Allergy Reactions on Allergic Individuals and Their Caregivers [news release]. Aimmune Therapeutics; August 24, 2020. https://ir.aimmune.com/news-releases/news-release-details/largest-european-qualitative-study-peanut-allergy-highlights. Accessed August 26, 2020.