children sitting at the kitchen counter

New intervention program can help children with food allergies

children sitting at the kitchen counter

Kids with food allergies can experience stress related to daily food allergy management.

Adolescence is a challenging developmental period associated with risky food allergy behaviors. Kids with food allergies can experience stress related to daily food allergy management. In fact, some kids report that they have anxiety about allergic reactions and get bullied for their allergies.

The big picture

In a new study published in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, a team of experts developed the Food Allergy Mastery Program (FAM), a six-session telehealth program led by a counselor that promotes food allergy self-management and adjustment for youth ages 10-14 years.

“We then conducted focus groups with families in our food allergy clinic to get their opinions on the program, made changes and conducted a pilot study with additional food allergy families,” said Linda Herbert, Ph.D., director of Psychology Research and Clinical Services for Allergy and Immunology and psychologist at Children’s National Hospital and author of the study. “When we compared kids’ food allergy knowledge, self-efficacy and social support before and after completing the FAM Program, we saw improvements in food allergy knowledge, greater self-efficacy and more social support after the program.”

What’s been the hold-up in the field?

To date, there are no behavioral interventions that promote food allergy self-management and adjustment for youth. However, Herbert said such an intervention is critically needed because adolescence is a higher-risk period for allergic reactions.

“Adolescents are typically diagnosed when they are young and may not have sufficient food allergy knowledge about how to engage in food allergy self-management,” Herbert said.

They also spend an increasingly greater amount of time with peers, so they are more responsible for their food allergy, she added.

What’s exciting about the findings?

Youth who completed all six sessions rated the FAM Program as relevant and enjoyable on the post-program evaluation. They also reported having better knowledge related to allergen avoidance, allergic reaction symptom recognition and allergic reaction treatment.

“The FAM Program is a promising intervention for youth with food allergies,” the authors wrote.

What’s next?

From here, the team is conducting a large-scale randomized clinical trial to fully evaluate the FAM Program’s impact on kids funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. This trial is evaluating the impact of the FAM Program on primary outcomes of interest, such as food allergy knowledge, skills, behavior and psychosocial functioning, and distal outcomes of interest, such as healthcare utilization.