Best Life: Developing new evidence-based program to tackle food allergies

Published: Apr. 26, 2022 at 7:31 AM CDT
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PHILADELPHIA, Pa. (Ivanhoe Newswire) – Nearly one in 13 kids, 18 and under, have food allergies.

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

Imagine that just one bite of food with nuts, 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 a food allergy, 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, Ph.D., expresses.

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.

Copyright 2022 WMC. All rights reserved.

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