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Last Updated: Monday, 10 November, 2003, 02:22 GMT
Children's fears over nut allergy
peanuts
Children with a nut allergy have be very vigilant over their diet
Children who have a peanut allergy worry more about their condition than those with diabetes, research suggests.

A team from the University of Southampton found children with the allergy had a poorer quality of life and were more worried about being killed by their illness.

Some said they were even afraid of dying if they were near peanuts.

Doctors said children with the allergy should be helped to have a more positive attitude.

The more information you can give, the better able people are to manage their condition
Allergy UK spokeswoman
Researchers studied 40 children aged nine and 10, half of whom had a peanut allergy and half of whom had insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus.

Children with diabetes need daily injections of insulin but can alter their diet and exercise to control their blood sugar levels.

Children with peanut allergies carry adrenaline injections which they only need to use if they have a severe reaction to a peanut.

Fear of peanuts

The children were given questionnaires to fill in and used cameras to record how their conditions affected them.

The researchers found that those with the allergy felt their lives were "restricted" and that they were "unable or not allowed" to do things that other people could.

Two even said they were scared of dying when they knew peanuts were nearby.

Children who had diabetes complained about not being able to eat foods their brothers and sisters could eat, and about the size of their own helpings.

However, none mentioned a fear of dying.

Dr Jonathan Hourihane, assistant director of the university's Wellcome Trust clinical research facility, who carried out the study, told BBC News Online that many children with allergies were more worried about their condition than they needed to be.

They should be better informed about how to manage their condition, he said.

"They should be less frightened, but that doesn't mean they should be less aware."

He said being treated at a specialist allergy clinic had been found to help children and their families.

"When there is a management plan in place, most reactions are usually less severe because people know what they are doing."

'Quality of life'

Dr Hourihane said that before his team's study, no one had asked allergic children themselves how they felt about their condition.

"This is an interesting first step to measure food allergic children's anxiety levels rather than relying on parents' opinions.

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

A spokeswoman for Allergy UK said she was not surprised at the findings.

"There have been so many scares, and it tends to make a lot of news when someone unfortunately dies from a nut allergy.

"Whether it's children or adults, the more information you can give, the better able people are to manage their condition.

"It's vital that children with serious allergies are treated within an allergy clinic. But the problem is that these clinics are not widely available."




SEE ALSO:
Peanut allergies 'may not last'
10 Jul 03  |  Health
Peanut test could save lives
07 Feb 03  |  Health


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