Food allergy video game trial launched

October 23, 2013, Lifespan

Elizabeth McQuaid, Ph.D., a staff psychologist from the Bradley Hasbro Children's Research Center, is leading a research team testing a new interactive software game developed to help children with peanut allergies better manage allergy symptoms, social situations and proper food avoidance.

"Pediatric allergy is a serious health issue that now affects approximately 4 to 8 percent of children. Yet, very few resources for children exist to promote effective management strategies," said McQuaid. "Most resources targeting those with food allergies provide support through groups or via the web, and typically focus on parents, with few resources designed for affected children."

To address this need, McQuaid's research team is collaborating with a virtual reality and software development company called Virtually Better, Inc. to test an interactive web-based computer game for children between 8 and 12 years old with food allergies. The game's goal is to increase knowledge, improve self-efficacy to manage the disease, and ultimately reduce risk of serious allergic reactions.

Funded by the National Institute of Child Health & Human Development, thirty-two children will be enrolled in an open trial in which families will be asked to use the software for four weeks, and will be prompted to use it three times a week. The team will measure gains in families' knowledge and confidence in management, and will conduct interviews with families to gain further input regarding the software's usability and efficacy.

In the game, each child will progress through virtual scenes structured to help them learn about food avoidance, symptom detection, and reaction management. For example, a child might be offered a food item in the school cafeteria and need to negotiate pressure to accept "trigger" foods. Or a child might have to look inside a virtual food pantry and play a label-reading game to decide which foods are safe to eat. There are also other interactive scenarios that address how to handle being bullied about food allergies, and games that teach how to identify the symptoms of a reaction.

Using the system earns points. Doing so with increased safe decision-making in scenarios and games earns more points. Points earned in each of these activities are used by players to select items to continually decorate their personalized "virtual aquarium" within the software program.

"With the feedback we receive from these trial families regarding efficacy, engagement, and ease of use, we can improve the intervention content and games, so we can better plan future versions, incorporating social scenarios such as birthday parties, family picnics, and other events where children with food allergies face disease management challenges," said Josh Spitalnick, Ph.D., psychologist and vice president of research at Virtually Better, Inc. "This initial software program will act as a template, so that in the future we can offer an interactive and engaging program for with other food allergies beyond the peanut specific trial game, as well as other chronic conditions requiring self-management, such as asthma, diabetes, and celiac disease."

Explore further: Food allergies tied to impaired growth in kids

Related Stories

Food allergies tied to impaired growth in kids

February 25, 2013
(HealthDay)—Food allergies appear to affect children's growth, a new study suggests.

Study estimates economic impact of childhood food allergies

September 16, 2013
The overall cost of childhood food allergies was estimated at nearly $25 billion annually in a study of caregivers that quantified medical, out-of-pocket, lost work productivity and other expenses, according to a report published ...

Kids with food allergies can fall through the cracks

September 13, 2012
More can be done to properly manage the care of American children with food allergies, especially when it comes to diagnostic testing and recognizing non-visual symptoms of severe allergic reactions, according to a new Northwestern ...

1997 to 2011 saw increase in allergies among US children

May 3, 2013
(HealthDay)—For U.S. children aged younger than 18 years, the prevalence of allergies increased from 1997 to 2011, with age, race/ethnicity, and income all affecting the prevalence, according to a May data brief issued ...

Survey shows that nearly 1 in 3 children with food allergies experience bullying

December 24, 2012
Nearly a third of children diagnosed with food allergies who participated in a recent study are bullied, according to researchers at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. Almost eight percent of children in the U.S. ...

The Medical Minute: Food allergies -- testing and diagnosis

May 9, 2012
A peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Milk and cookies. Comfort food, or food to fear?

Recommended for you

Who uses phone apps to track sleep habits? Mostly the healthy and wealthy in US

January 16, 2018
The profile of most Americans who use popular mobile phone apps that track sleep habits is that they are relatively affluent, claim to eat well, and say they are in good health, even if some of them tend to smoke.

Improvements in mortality rates are slowed by rise in obesity in the United States

January 15, 2018
With countless medical advances and efforts to curb smoking, one might expect that life expectancy in the United States would improve. Yet according to recent studies, there's been a reduction in the rate of improvement in ...

Teens likely to crave junk food after watching TV ads

January 15, 2018
Teenagers who watch more than three hours of commercial TV a day are more likely to eat hundreds of extra junk food snacks, according to a report by Cancer Research UK.

Can muesli help against arthritis?

January 15, 2018
It is well known that healthy eating increases a general sense of wellbeing. Researchers at Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) have now discovered that a fibre-rich diet can have a positive influence ...

Your dishwasher is not as sterile as you think

January 13, 2018
(HealthDay)—Your dishwasher may get those plates spotless, but it is also probably teeming with bacteria and fungus, a new study suggests.

Study reveals what sleep talkers have to say

January 12, 2018
A team of researchers with members from several institutions in France has conducted a study regarding sleep talking and has found that most sleep talking is not only negative in nature, but involves a large amount of swearing. ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.