October is a significant month for the food allergy community. Not only is it National Bullying Prevention Month, but Mental Illness Awareness Week and World Mental Health Day also fall within this month. Many with food allergies also struggle with these emotional tolls, so we’re here to provide information and advice on managing these related experiences.
The Stress of Life-Threatening Allergies
Life-threatening food allergies and stress go hand in hand. For some, even the most minuscule trace of an allergen can be fatal. Normal day-to-day activities that most people never think twice about, like eating out, must be carefully evaluated for those suffering from food anaphylaxis. The constant anxiety of potential exposure can be extremely exhausting and isolating for food-allergic individuals and their loved ones.
Here’s what you need to know:
Food allergies can feel unfair and frustrating for a young child. It may be difficult as a kid to understand why you have to bring your own cupcake to parties when everyone else gets to eat the birthday cake or why your parents must wipe down a swing before you can play on it while the other kids can run and jump on anything they want. The limitations and isolation that accompany food allergies can be challenging to accept. It is important to remind your child that it’s okay to be different.
Being a teenager and entering early adulthood comes with many changes and new experiences. Part of growing up means taking responsibility for your actions and your health. Learn to advocate for yourself, especially in social settings. It may feel uncool or embarrassing to ask your peers if they’ve eaten or touched any allergens, but you must always put your health first. Having Food allergies does not make you a burden!
Having a child with life-threatening allergies can be overwhelming. Along with the stress and anxiety of raising children that all parents experience, food allergy parents live with the added worry of their child suffering from a severe allergic reaction. While it’s incredibly nerve-wracking to let your child go off, it’s vital that they experience independence. To ease your and your child’s anxiety, make sure your child understands their allergies and what they can and cannot eat. You will likely still be anxious; it’s part of being a parent, but educating your child on their allergies may help put your mind at ease.
If you don’t have life-threatening allergies, it is hard to fully understand the fear and anxiety of those who do. You may not think about how dangerous or anxiety-inducing eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in the cafeteria could be to your food-allergic classmate. If someone you know has allergies, treating them equally while being mindful of their allergens is essential.
The Emotional Impact Of Being a TIP Patient
The Tolerance Induction Program™ (TIP) allows food allergy patients to experience a world without fear of food anaphylaxis through food freedom. While working towards remission, many patients feel overwhelmed keeping up with their treatment plan. Throughout their TIP journey, patients must manage recommended, maintenance, and treatment foods and adhere to a rigorous dosing schedule. It’s a huge commitment but one that’s highly worth it.
Patients may also experience anxiety when it comes time to “challenge” allergens that once resulted in severe reactions. While this anxiety is expected, all challenges are executed in-clinic and closely monitored by our trained providers. Additionally, TIP’s calculated and gradual approach to retraining a patient’s immune system makes severe reactions highly unlikely!
Some TIP patients shared stories below of times they’ve dealt with anxiety during their treatment and how they have handled it:
“When I introduced pistachios during treatment, it was in gummy form, and I didn’t think much of it. Once my doses increased, and I needed crushed pistachios daily, I panicked because it became real for me. I go to college out of state, so I flew home and started my new dose there. Trying foods that once caused severe reactions are extremely anxiety-provoking for me. Instead of thinking about my past reactions, I try to stay positive and think of my future of food freedom.”
“It was my son’s graduation from preschool. We had to leave early because a little boy said, “my dad made banana bread for everyone, and you can’t have any because you’re allergic.” My son, who never really cried when we brought his own food everywhere, was heartbroken. Fast forward 3.5 years and 22 visits later, graduation from TIP and (almost)food freedom! Now, he can have any banana bread he wants without having to read the ingredients! Tree nuts? Peanuts? Eggs? Dairy? Soy? Bring it!!!”
Learn more about TIP and start your journey to food freedom here
Close to ⅓ of children with food allergies report being bullied due to their allergies.1 Schools typically separate children with food allergies from the others during lunchtime. While this may seem logical for safety reasons, it also isolates a child from their peers and can often invite bullying. Unfortunately, many non-food allergic individuals do not understand the impact and seriousness of food allergies. What may seem like a “harmless prank” to a bully can have detrimental or even fatal effects on someone with food allergies. To overcome this isolating stigma, everyone in the food allergy community needs to rally together to spread food allergy awareness and education. If your child is being bullied because of their allergies, remind them that having food allergies are nothing to feel ashamed of. Speak up, find a support system, and eat safely.
How to Navigate Stress and Anxiety When it Comes to Allergies
Find a Support System
Whether it be your family or friends, knowing that you’re surrounded by people you can talk to and understand your allergies can lessen your burden.
Join a support group
There are many support groups for children and adults, whether it be for mental health or others with food allergies. Talking to people with shared experiences can help you feel less alone.
See a therapist
If your anxiety negatively impacts your everyday life, seeing a therapist is a great idea. There’s no shame in going to therapy; you will come out of it with coping mechanisms that will stay with you for the rest of your life.
For TIP patients, having a routine and knowing where everything is extremely necessary. Labeling treatment and maintenance foods for mornings and afternoons will help you organize your daily dosing. It is also helpful to make a calendar to stay on top of your doses.
Check out our other blogs for more advice on how to live life to the fullest with life-threatening allergies. Check our social media regularly for seasonal updates and tips to celebrate holidays with food allergies safely!
Visit the links below for more mental health information:
- “Child and Parental Reports of Bullying in a Consecutive Sample of Children with Food Allergy,” Shemesh E, Annunziato RA, Ambrose MA, Ravid NL, Mullarkey C, Rubes M, Chuang K, Sicherer M, Sicherer SH. Pediatrics. 2013 Jan;131(1):e10-7. doi: 10.1542/peds.2012-1180. Epub 2012 Dec 24.