Your Health: Attacking food allergies head-on

Your Health: Attacking food allergies head-on
Published: May. 3, 2022 at 5:29 PM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - It’s estimated that roughly one in 13 children have food allergies.

It’s our body’s main source of energy. But when someone has food allergies, 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,” said Dr. Katherine Dahlsgaard, co-founder of the Food Allergy Bravery Clinic (FAB).

“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?’” said nurse practitioner and FAB co-founder Megan Lewis.

The FAB clinic team developed a way to measure food allergy anxiety called Scale of Food Allergy Anxiety (SOFAA). Children and parents answer separate surveys that describe their behaviors around unfamiliar people. The survey asks questions like, are they afraid to eat in public? Afraid to be touched by someone who might have food on their hands? Afraid to even smell foods?

Afterward, 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 said.

She said small steps build children’s 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.

More: Health stories

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