Nut-allergy sufferers face prejudice -- new study

Parents of nut-allergy sufferers face hostility and scepticism in trying to find safe environments for their children, a new study has found.

Researchers found that parents are routinely made to feel by friends and even family that their child's nut allergy is a 'frivolous and self indulgent fad invented and maintained by attention-seeking people.'

Children in the study described how they were bullied by saying, "I've got nuts and I'm gonna touch you!"

The research by a team from the University of Leicester, the London School of Economics and Political Science, and the Children's Allergy Clinic at University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust has found that children suffering from potentially deadly nut allergies often struggle with and unhelpful food labelling.

Funded by Midlands Asthma and Allergy Research Association (MAARA), the researchers interviewed 26 families about the techniques and strategies they use to cope in various situations. Their findings, published in the journal , point to a need to raise awareness of the dangers associated with nut allergy.

Professor Mary Dixon-Woods from the University of Leicester Department of Health Sciences said: "Nut allergy was a frightening experience for most families. One mother described how her son's eyes "swelled up completely so you could hardly see his pupils.," . This child, like many others in the study, had to be rushed to hospital after his first reaction.

Parents in the study described taking multiple precautions to ensure their child was safe, including creating nut-free environments at home. But when they tried to get others to cooperate in keeping their child safe from nuts, they could encounter hostility and scepticism. "People's approaches ranged from , disbelief and in some cases complete lack of care, which could put the child in danger," said author Dr Emma Pitchforth.

One parent said receiving birthday party invitations was a "nightmare" because other children's parents think nut allergy "is a bit faddy," and don't realize it can be life-threatening. Other parents described incidents where they suspected that people – including family and friends – had deliberately given their child nuts to test if the allergy was real.

Nut allergy was a source of ongoing anxiety for families, who can find themselves socially isolated and excluded. "Families felt they could never fully rely on anyone, including friends and relatives", said Janet Willars, who interviewed the families. "Despite their best intentions, friends and families were not always able to give full attention to the child's safe-keeping."

Vague packaging on foods and uninformed service staff at some restaurants and supermarkets all added to families' problems. It was sometimes so hard to find out whether food contained nuts that families resorted to cooking every meal from scratch and never eating out or accepting invitations to social occasions, say the researchers.

The research team includes Dr David Luyt, a consultant who diagnoses and treats children with allergies in Leicester. He recommends better public education about the dangers of nut allergy. "These parents and children see a society that is willing and able to accommodate vegetarians and many others with dietary restrictions, but not them," he said. "This research is a wake-up call for improvement in food production and labelling to help families and children maintain a safe environment and reduce stress and difficulties," he added.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Canberra parents lack allergy awareness: Study

Mar 17, 2009

Nearly four per cent of ACT kindergarten children have a peanut allergy and while the region's schools are well prepared to cope with this, some parents are taking inappropriate action when dealing with their child's allergy, ...

Peanut allergies overstated, study finds

May 16, 2007

Despite hundreds of families being told their children have peanut allergies every year, many of the children may be able to eat peanuts safely, a study by researchers at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) and Sydney ...

Students with food allergies often not prepared

Aug 06, 2008

College students with food allergies aren't avoiding the foods they know they shouldn't eat. Students of all ages are not treated with potentially life-saving epinephrine as often as they should be. And instructors, ...

Recommended for you

Older adults are at risk of financial abuse

2 hours ago

Nearly one in every twenty elderly American adults is being financially exploited – often by their own family members. This burgeoning public health crisis especially affects poor and black people. It merits the scrutiny ...

Medical internet could transform health care

2 hours ago

The medical Internet is not yet here, but the widespread availability of electronic medical records and enhanced data-storage capabilities are pushing it closer to reality. As now envisioned, this new cyberspace ...

User comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

dogbert
4.5 / 5 (2) Aug 16, 2011
The problem with severe nut allergies is that there is no safe environment unless that environment is really nut free.

It is difficult to say, for example, this school will have no food which contains nuts. No one will be allowed to bring any food to this school which contains nuts. It is difficult to contemplate, much less enforce, a complete ban on nuts. Then, having instituted such a ban, serving cinnamon rolls without realizing that tree bark triggers the same allergy as tree nuts.

Severe nut allergies are bad and we really need to find an effective treatment.
Shootist
1.8 / 5 (5) Aug 16, 2011
Let's see.
1870-1970 1000 million people grow up eating peanut butter. No one dies.

1990 Children are now, magically, allergic to peanut butter, where no one was before.

I'd call that hog wash, but scientists say its true. How is it, that prior to the invention of the Nut allergy, no one (or at least a number so insignificant as to go unreported since George Washington Carver) was allergic to nuts?
dogbert
4.8 / 5 (4) Aug 16, 2011
There does seem to.be an increase in allergies of all types.

By the way, peanuts are not nuts. Peanut allergies are not nut allergies.
89118a
2.3 / 5 (3) Aug 17, 2011
Let's see.
1870-1970 1000 million people grow up eating peanut butter. No one dies.

1990 Children are now, magically, allergic to peanut butter, where no one was before.


That's 1000 million petri dishes vs 6500 million petri dishes with a 100 years of just the slightest hint of entropy. What's to not understand?

Read a book about Statistics and then one on Logic. Till then, please lower your hand.
Shootist
not rated yet Aug 17, 2011
Let's see.
1870-1970 1000 million people grow up eating peanut butter. No one dies.

1990 Children are now, magically, allergic to peanut butter, where no one was before.


That's 1000 million petri dishes vs 6500 million petri dishes with a 100 years of just the slightest hint of entropy. What's to not understand?

Read a book about Statistics and then one on Logic. Till then, please lower your hand.


Bless and forgive me, oh sapient one, for I am but a lowly creature and you must like unto a god.
Simonsez
not rated yet Aug 17, 2011
Rather than forcing the 95% of normal, non-allergic children and adults to be inconvenienced, a special nut-and-legume-free school shall be developed and parents of those children advised to move there and attend or (gasp) home school.

@dogbert

The prevalence of allergies in the last three decades has been linked to the rise of use of antibiotics in children. I'll check around for some research to support this next claim, but I've been advised by at least my general practice doctor that people who have allergies tend to have healthier immune systems and vice versa.
Ethelred
3.7 / 5 (3) Aug 18, 2011
The prevalence of allergies in the last three decades has been linked to the rise of use of antibiotics in children.
It has been linked at least as reliably to the lack of contact with parasites. Few children get worms these days. The human immune system evolved with parasites as well as bacteria. We are still dealing with bacteria but few in the industrialized nations have to deal with parasites.

allergies tend to have healthier immune systems and vice versa.
I have my doubts. They have more reactive immune systems which is not the same thing.

http://www.scienc...1758.htm

http://en.wikiped...pothesis

http://www.techno...e/25017/

Ethelred