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Anxiety related to food allergies is common in parents of children with allergies, and a standardized way of understanding this anxiety is needed to fully assess and manage this condition.

Impaired quality of life and diminished family functioning are among the many results possible in families that parent a child with food allergies. Anxiety is a central component of food allergy-related distress, and as such, serves as a potential target for therapeutic intervention of the overall psychosocial dynamic involved in families where food allergies are present. This systematic review, published in Pediatric Allergy and Immunology, aimed to clarify the concept of food allergy-specific anxiety, and to describe its consequences and possible methods of intervention.

For this study, the authors relied on data gathered from MEDLINE, EMBASE, PsycINFO, and CENTRAL. Both qualitative and quantitative studies that examined distress or anxiety in parents of children with food allergies were analyzed, and 98 studies were included, in total. Most of the participating parents were mothers, and they primarily identified anxiety as the most difficult form of food allergy-specific emotional distress. Interventions that reduced parental anxiety were both allergy-related as well as medical and psychosocial in nature. Affective, cognitive, and behavioral aspects of food allergy-related anxiety were not fully addressed by existing measures for anxiety management, even though anxiety and distress were reduced.

The authors conclude by noting that more interventions that take into account the unique situation of parents with food allergies may be needed to fully capture all dimensions of food allergy anxiety. They also note that more detailed methods for assessing and monitoring food allergy anxiety and its impact on parents are needed for future studies, and that their research and characterization is useful as a first step in developing these standardized methods.

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Westwell-Roper, C., To, S., Andjelic, G., Lu, C., Lin, B., Soller, L., . . . Stewart, S. E. (2022). Food-allergy-specific anxiety and distress in parents of children with food allergy: A systematic review. Pediatric Allergy and Immunology, 33(1), e13695. doi:10.1111/pai.13695

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