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Teenagers’ experiences of living with food hypersensitivity: A qualitative study


Taraneh Dean, School of Health Sciences and Social Work, University of Portsmouth, James Watson West, 2 King Richard 1st Road, Portsmouth, PO1 2FR, UK
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MacKenzie H, Roberts G, Van Laar D, Dean T. Teenagers’ experiences of living with food hypersensitivity: A qualitative study.
Pediatr Allergy Immunol 2010: 21: 595–602.
© 2009 John Wiley & Sons A/S

Teenagers are a high-risk group for food-hypersensitivity fatalities, engage in risk-taking behaviours and may experience impaired quality of life. Understanding their experience is important to inform their care. This study aimed to describe the lived experiences of teenagers with food hypersensitivity. Individual semi-structured interviews were conducted with 21 teenagers (13–18 yr) with food hypersensitivity to a variety of foods and analysed using a phenomenological approach. Teenagers described living with (or coming to know) food hypersensitivity (FHS) as a way of life but still found living with food hypersensitivity to be burdensome. A necessary part of living with food hypersensitivity was coping with associated burden; a variety of coping strategies were employed to this effect. Teenagers described ways in which the burden of living with food hypersensitivity was alleviated or exacerbated by others. Management of food hypersensitivity was based on an assessment of acceptable risk resulting in varying levels of precaution taking. Teenagers’ understanding of their FHS and ability to cope with it needs to be regularly assessed. Educational support may be required to ensure they take an appropriate level of precautions to minimize the chance of future reactions while not over compromising their quality of life. Psychological support may be required to help them to utilize healthy adaptive strategies to cope with the stresses of living with FHS. This approach is also likely to facilitate the smooth handover of responsibility from parent to teenager.