Therapy helps children with food allergies manage severe anxiety

July 28, 2020

Philadelphia, July 28, 2020 - Imagine a young girl with a peanut allergy, so stricken by fear of anaphylaxis that she no longer takes part in everyday activities many children take for granted. She's stopped playing with her siblings, worried that residue from their peanut butter crackers may trigger an allergic reaction. She obsessively washes her hands to make sure there is no trace of peanut on them. She worries that every stomachache could mean she accidently ate something she was allergic to.

This story is becoming more familiar to families across the country. While most children with food allergies maintain a healthy level of caution, there is a small percentage whose anxiety is excessive and impairing. The hallmark of excessive anxiety is going to extreme, medically unnecessary lengths to avoid the allergen, such as no longer visiting extended family or refusing to eat any allergen-free food that isn't familiar. While these coping mechanisms may relieve anxiety in the short term, they may ultimately cause more harm by negatively reinforcing the idea that the world is a dangerous place and that children are helpless to keep themselves safe.

Now, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) has launched the Food Allergy Bravery (FAB) Clinic to help children with a phobia of anaphylaxis. This revolutionary clinic, housed within the Food Allergy Center, is the first in the world to bring together psychologists and food allergy experts to treat food allergic children with severe phobia of anaphylaxis.

The three Founders of the FAB Clinic published a set of best practices in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, providing guidance to allergists and pediatricians on how to address allergy-related phobias through Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).

"CBT works by gradually encouraging anxious children to take part in 'brave practices,' like eating with the rest of their family, playing with siblings, and trying new foods that don't contain allergens," said Katherine Dahlsgaard, PhD, ABPP, Director of the FAB Clinic at CHOP. "As a child's confidence grows, we gradually introduce them to more challenging brave practices. This could include sitting in the same room with the food they're allergic to, or even touching the food and then washing their hands thoroughly. The aim is to help children realize, through safe, structured practices in the FAB Clinic, that the world is much safer than they think and that they are capable of keeping themselves safe within it."

The FAB clinic enthusiastically employs the help of family members, coaching parents or caregivers to repeat brave practices at home.

"We want these children and their families to know they're safe and capable," said Dr. Dahlsgaard. "Our ultimate goal is to equip families with practical skills and confidence via focused treatment sessions, so that their child can safely navigate a world that can't always be allergen-free."

About Children's Hospital of Philadelphia: Children's Hospital of Philadelphia was founded in 1855 as the nation's first pediatric hospital. Through its long-standing commitment to providing exceptional patient care, training new generations of pediatric healthcare professionals, and pioneering major research initiatives, Children's Hospital has fostered many discoveries that have benefited children worldwide. Its pediatric research program is among the largest in the country. In addition, its unique family-centered care and public service programs have brought the 564-bed hospital recognition as a leading advocate for children and adolescents. For more information, visit http://www.chop.edu

Children's Hospital of Philadelphia

Related Food Allergy Articles from Brightsurf:

Food allergy caused by insects?
Can edible insects trigger allergies? In September 2020, the BfR launched a new joint research project to protect consumers from potential allergic reactions: Allergen-Pro.

Gene variants help explain connection between skin disorder and food allergy risk
Two common variants in the KIF3A gene increase the risk of young children having a dysfunctional skin barrier and developing the skin condition atopic dermatitis, according to study led by scientists at Cincinnati Children's.

Economic and food supply chain disruptions endanger global food security
COVID-19 has led to a global economic slowdown that is affecting all four pillars of food security - availability, access, utilization, and stability.

'Building wealth and health network' reduces food insecurity without providing food
As the coronavirus pandemic forces so many to reckon with growing food insecurity and increased health challenges, the Building Wealth and Health Network program of Drexel University's Center for Hunger-Free Communities is reducing food insecurity and improving mental health - without distributing any food or medicine.

Food allergy may be underdiagnosed in children on Medicaid
Prevalence of food allergy among Medicaid-enrolled children across the U.S.

Territorial short food supply chains foster food democracy and sustainability
A University of Cordoba study analyzed the governance mechanisms in territorial short food supply chains in Córdoba and Bogotá.

Allergy shots may be an effective treatment for pediatric pollen food allergy syndrome
A new study being presented at the ACAAI Annual Scientific Meeting in Houston shows allergy shots (subcutaneous immunotherapy) can be effective in reducing PFAS symptoms for pediatric patients.

NIH researchers estimate 17% of food-allergic children have sesame allergy
Investigators at the National Institutes of Health have found that sesame allergy is common among children with other food allergies, occurring in an estimated 17% of this population.

'Good' bacteria may prevent -- and reverse -- food allergy
A study by scientists at Boston Children's Hospital and Brigham and Women's Hospital, published today in Nature Medicine, makes a strong case that the national epidemic of food allergy is caused by the absence of certain beneficial bacteria in the human gut.

Researchers warn: junk food could be responsible for the food allergy epidemic
Experts at the 52nd Annual Meeting of the European Society for Paediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition are today presenting the results of a study that show higher levels of advanced glycation end products (AGEs), found in abundance in junk food, are associated with food allergy in children.

Read More: Food Allergy News and Food Allergy Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.