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The psychological impact of diagnostic food challenges to confirm the resolution of peanut or tree nut allergy

Authors


Correspondence: Dr Jane Lucas, Infection Inflammation and Immunity, Child Health (MP 803), Southampton University Hospitals NHS Trust, Tremona Road, Southampton, UK SO16 6YD.

E-mail: jlucas1@soton.ac.uk

Abstract

Background

Twenty percent of children outgrow peanut allergy and 10% outgrow tree nut allergy. Resolution can be confirmed by a food challenge. Little is known about the psychosocial impact of the challenge. We aimed to investigate effects of a food challenge on anxiety, stress and quality of life (QoL) in children and their mothers on the day of a food challenge to peanuts or nuts, and in the months following the challenge.

Methods

One hundred and three families participated. Forty children undergoing food challenges to access resolution of allergy, and their mothers, completed validated questionnaires to measure generic and food specific quality of life, stress and anxiety prior to challenge, on the day of investigation and 3–6 months later. Sixty-three children with no clinical indication to challenge (i.e. in the opinion of the allergist had persistent allergy) acted as comparison group completing questionnaires 3–6 months apart.

Results

Mothers reported raised anxiety on the day of challenge (P = 0.007), but children were less anxious. The children (P = 0.01) and mothers (P = 0.01) had improved food-related, but not general, QoL 3–6 months following challenge. Children reported lower anxiety levels following the challenge (P = 0.02), but anxiety remained unchanged in mothers. The improvements in maternal and children's QoL and anxiety levels were irrespective of the challenge outcome and despite co-existing food allergies in 50% of children.

Conclusions

Mothers experienced increased anxiety on the day of food challenge, unlike the children, perhaps reflecting the differences in their perceived risks. Food challenges are associated with improved food-related QoL in the following months even in those with a positive challenge.

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