Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Food Allergies and Quality of Life

The very famous (at least among the east coast people who have children with food allergies) and popular (takes like 8 months to get an appointment with him) Dr. Wood did a study with the not so famous Sally Joo (never heard of her) about The Impact of Childhood Food Allergies on Quality of Life. Their conclusion was that it does impact quality of life in some areas.

The four areas that differed from the general public were: physical functioning, emotional/behavioral problems, family activities, and family cohesion.

Here is how I view my family's standing in each area:

Physical Functioning
I guess you can't have a food allergy and not have it affect physical functioning in some way. My kids can not eat things other people eat. I think my children are also smaller than other children their age because their diet is limited. For Max I wonder if it has affected his muscle tone in some way. Part of it is his refusal to eat much at all (which will again be covered in emotional/behavioral problems). At age 5, Max can not pedal a bike and often finds physical activity taxing. Don't think I don't worry about this.

Emotional/behavioral problems
Ahhh, where do I start. I think Max's food allergies have taken a huge toll on Max's psyche. I need a therapist who specializes in food allergies to sort it all out. At a recent teacher conference his teacher and I were discussing if his need for absolute control stemmed from his food allergies. Or if his anxiety about many things stemmed from his food allergies. I told her he can't really remember his more serious reactions as they happened when he was only one year old. She talked about the unconscious mind and how on some level he must remember being sick from food. I do believe this. I can't help but feel it is partly my anxiety that he internalized though. When he was a toddler I would hyperventilate just introducing new foods to him, afraid we hadn't discovered the extent of his food allergies. I was beyond careful as I know many, many other parents of food allergic children to be.

The other part of this is Max's refusal to eat. We have called him the two bite wonder. Two bites and he's full. If he eats more than that his stomach hurts. I feel it has been better lately. We have a handful of foods he will eat all of. (One being his English muffin pizzas). However, I can't help but feel this aversion to food has affected his health.

Max also is obsessive about telling others when they are eating something he can't have. He says it defensively "I'm allergic to cheese!" Then asks them to wash their hands.

Can we say he has issues? I think so.

On the other hand, Owen's only behavioral problem (in regards to food allergies) is when I won't let him have something wants. For some reason he doesn't have the same sense of self preservation that Max did at this age.

Family Activities
Family activities can be limited by food allergies. If something seems to involve too much food I tend to avoid it. Lately I have been branching out more, attending pot lucks I wouldn't normally go to. We also avoid overly peanutty activities such as baseball games. Even flying on an airplane is a pain in the ass. It's not that we don't do things. It just requires more planning and more packing and the accompaniment of an epi-pen or two or three. (Yes, I have been known to carry multiple) We have gone to few movies and very few restaurants (too risky).

Family Cohesion
This is the area in Dr. Woods study that food allergy families scored higher in than the general public. I guess when something threatens your life you tend to stick together.

In a nutshell (no pun intended), I wouldn't exactly say our "quality of life" is less. We are a happy family. We laugh. We have feasts and treats. Do we have more challenges? Yes. Do we tiptoe where others might burst forward? Yes. But we preserver. We move forward. We find the ways in which food allergies don't hold us back.

1 comment:

All Adither said...

There's something about caution and the older child. My oldest (who is also my food allergic Max) is a really careful kid. I'm just grateful that my daughter isn't food allergic because she's much more of a risk taker.