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The University of Southampton

Children with peanut allergy worry more about their condition than children with diabetes

Published: 5 November 2003

Research at the University of Southampton suggests children with peanut allergy have a worse quality of life that those living with diabetes, and that they worry more about the potentially life threatening implications of their condition.

In a study involving 40 nine and ten years old, half with peanut allergy, half with insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus, researchers found that young people with peanut allergy felt restricted and unable or 'not allowed' to do things that other people could. Two of the children even said they were scared of dying when they knew peanuts were nearby - for example, when visiting a supermarket.

Youngsters with diabetes made comments about 'restricted' foods their siblings were allowed to eat but they were not, and the size of their own helpings, but none mentioned a fear of dying.

To take part in the study the youngsters completed quality of life questionnaires and used cameras to record how their disease affected them.

The research was undertaken by Dr Natalie Avery, then a fourth-year medical student at the University's School of Medicine; and Senior Lecturer and Assistant Director of the Wellcome Trust Clinical Research Facility, Dr Jonathan Hourihane.

Dr Hourihane said: "This is an interesting first step to measure food allergic children's anxiety levels rather than relying on parents' opinions. We know parents worry a lot but no one has asked food allergic children before.

"Children with diabetes need daily injections of insulin but are able to alter their dietary intake and exercise levels to control their blood sugar levels. Peanut allergic people also carry injections, of adrenaline, but only need to use these in a crisis situation, when they react severely to peanut.

"Previous research to measure the impact peanut allergy has on children's quality of life involved parents completing questionnaires rather than children."

Dr Avery suggests improved education for children with peanut allergy and better access to support services would help them develop a positive attitude and lower their, sometimes unjustified, levels of anxiety, enabling them to follow a less restricted lifestyle.

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