Are Childhood Food Allergies Leading to Anxiety in Kids?

Last modified: August 2, 2019

Richard Honaker M.D.
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A recent study that was published in The Journal of Pediatrics has linked food allergies to childhood anxiety. The authors of the research are from Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health and Ferkauf Graduate School of Psychology and Albert Einstein College of Medicine.

They investigated the connections between food allergies and anxiety and depression in kids among the participants who are mostly minority kids of low socioeconomic status.

Food Allergies are Now More Common in U.S. Kids

Food allergies have become more and more regular among kids in the US. The recent estimates go as high as 8 percent. And until now, very little was known about the widespread presence of food allergies in low socioeconomic ethnic minority people.

The researchers have gathered and examined 80 pediatric participants who are aged 4 to 12 years. The average age was 8 years old and they are with and without food allergies. Their caregivers are from urban pediatric outpatient clinics in the Bronx, New York.

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The researchers controlled for an asthma diagnosis in kids because anxiety and mood disorders are more common among kids with asthma and especially more prevalent in minority kids of low socioeconomic status.

Of all the kids in the study, 57 percent who have food allergies and 48 percent without any food allergies have reported having symptoms of anxiety. An estimated 48 percent of the kids have had symptoms of depression whether they are with or without food allergies.

According to the lead author of the research, managing food allergies can become very expensive because of selective and specific food shopping and meal preparation. Add to that the cost of epinephrine auto-injectors that annually expires. Those demands alone can cause higher levels of anxiety for those who have fewer financial resources, which can result to heightened anxiety symptoms for the kids and their caregivers as well.

Food Allergies in Kids Causing Anxiety

Researchers Link Food Allergies to Elevated Social Anxiety

Research results suggest that food allergies are associated with an elevated social anxiety and fears of social rejection and humiliation. According to the researchers, there are plenty of possible explanations for the relationship between diagnosis of food allergies and increased social anxiety problems in their participants.

Dealing with a possibly life-threatening condition may provoke anxiety and some kids may experience more social anxiety about being different from other kids. It will depend on the kids’ age and how adults will handle their food allergies.

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They have also indicated a possible explanation for not finding a connection between food allergies and depression in kids. The participants are young and the mean age of onset for depression is notably later than anxiety.

According to professor Feldman from the Yeshiva University, “It would be great to investigate the relationships among older adolescents and young adults with food allergies who are the most at risk for the onset of depression because early anxiety is linked with increased risk for ensuing onset of depression.”

Can Food Allergies Among Kids Be Lowered?

The authors of the study have also mentioned that with the steep pervasiveness of food allergies today, education in schools is still the priority. Since there is a strong connection between food allergies and social anxiety in kids, more research and investigations in the future about the relationship between food allergies and mental health is needed.

Such studies would be more beneficial if conducted in clinical, school, and community based settings because these could help in the development of more effective interventions.

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Submitted by Dr. Richard Honaker: http://www.independentmedicalexaminer.com/IME-Directory/Virginia/Dr-Richard-A-Honaker-MD.asp

Disclaimer: This article provides general information and is not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any disease or medical condition. If you require specific advice, please consult one of our medical professionals through the app. However, in case of an emergency, please call 911.

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