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Chem Immunol Allergy. 2015;101:235-52. doi: 10.1159/000375106. Epub 2015 May 21.

The effects of food allergy on quality of life.

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1
Department of Paediatrics and Child Health, University College Cork, Cork, Ireland.

Abstract

The majority of research on food allergy has been bio-medical in orientation, focusing on issues such as the molecular structure of allergens, or aimed at methods of diagnosis. In the last decade, there has been a growing interest in the development of questionnaires that measure the impact of food allergy on health-related quality of life (HRQL). These studies have provided insight into the everyday burden of living with food allergy and have suggested ways that HRQL can be improved. The EuroPrevall project (europrevall@bbsrc.ac.uk) has given great impetus to research in the area of HRQL. In addition to clinical research on the prevalence, mechanisms and causes of food allergy, research output in the area of psycho-social impact has included HRQL measures for all age groups and examination of the socio-economic impact of food allergy. In this chapter, we review the literature on the impact of food allergy on children, teens and their parents; the majority of this data was generated over the life of the EuroPrevall project. We then examine both quantitative and qualitative research findings to provide an in-depth picture of the impact of food allergy on the concerns and everyday lives of children, teens, adults and parents. Research on factors that are related to and impact HRQL is also discussed. There is a strong emphasis throughout the chapter on developmental considerations of food allergy, spanning from infants to adults. We conclude by discussing methodological issues in relation to the measurement of HRQL in relation to food allergy. We offer some recommendations for future research and practice on HRQL so that HRQL measures can reach their full potential in research, practice and policy, with the help of the findings in this review. Overall, the findings suggest that food allergy has a strong impact on HRQL in terms of social, dietary, and psychological factors. 'Rules' and restrictions ostensibly apply to food, but because food is such an integral part of everyday life, these restrictions extend far beyond 'mealtimes'. Therefore, social events are experienced differently and have a different meaning for those living with food allergy, giving rise to feelings of exclusion and difference when compared to those without allergy. Children, teens, and parents need to cope with normal developmental changes as well as with the food allergy, placing them under increased psycho-social stress and leading to adverse effects on HRQL and coping. To address and attempt to alleviate such stressors, both quantitative and qualitative research suggests that targeting uncertainty should be a major goal for health professionals working with children, teens and families with a food allergy. Remarkable similarities in response to food allergy across countries suggest that policies and programmes that address quality of life issues may be relevant to many different populations. An in-depth understanding of the relationship between a diagnosis of food allergy and HRQL, as well as the factors that impact it, will ultimately lead to the promotion of earlier, more effective preventive strategies and interventions that are focused on maximising optimal health development and quality of life.

PMID:
26022884
DOI:
10.1159/000375106
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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