Certain life events – such as being newly diagnosed with food allergy or a recent allergic reaction – can bring about a wide range of emotions including fear, anxiety, anger, loneliness, and guilt. Acknowledging and responding to these emotions can be very helpful in managing them, and in managing your allergies.
Are you newly diagnosed?
Initial anxiety with a new diagnosis is normal, and can actually be a healthy part of the process in learning to manage food allergies. It can motivate you to learn what you need to know about steps to prevent reactions and how to respond in an emergency.
Follow these helpful tips to ease anxiety:
- Make a list of the questions that you have about your food allergies and how to manage them.
- Seek answers from reliable sources such as your allergist, or organizations like Food Allergy Canada.
- Take what you have learned and put it into action with a plan for managing allergies in various areas of your life (such as school, work, travel, dining out, and family gatherings).
- As food allergy management becomes a part of daily living, you will feel more empowered, and less anxious. Talking to others who have had similar experiences (for example, other parents) can be extremely useful.
Remember that ups and downs are normal. It is normal to experience some anxiety after major life changes, including when you are first diagnosed with a food allergy. If you are the parent of a child diagnosed with a food allergy, you may feel some anxiety upon diagnosis or when your child starts a new activity, such as entering childcare, starting school or going to a friend’s home. You will learn to find routines that keep you, or your child, safe and work for your family.
- Download the Living Confidently with Food Allergy handbook. The handbook is meant to teach you important information about food allergy, suggest ways to educate your child and others, and offer helpful tips and support.
- Download now
Managing anxiety & feeling in control
It is very common to feel worried about having an allergic reaction. While anaphylaxis has the potential to cause death, fatalities are rare and usually avoidable. When you know the facts about food allergy, you can greatly reduce the risks of an allergic reaction. As managing allergies becomes part of daily life, you will feel more confident and in control. Here are some things to keep in mind.
- If you are not sure about the level of risk in a certain situation, talk to your doctor, to us at Food Allergy Canada, or a local support group. If you don’t have the facts, it is easy to worry and difficult to find solutions.
“Don’t be afraid of the allergen. Learn as much as possible; the more you know, the more you can be in control. Knowledge is power.”Dietitian
After a reaction
After a serious allergic reaction, there often is a period of readjustment. It can have a significant impact on you and your family as you all make sense of what happened. A serious allergic reaction often prompts key questions about how it happened, how it was handled and what can be done differently in the future.
You and your family may be dealing with different emotions as you readjust to your daily routine. It’s normal to worry about having another reaction, to feel upset or angry, or to feel alone, depending on what happened. Some children will feel fearful when they return to the place where it happened, or even start to worry about having another reaction. Talk about these feelings and how you are coping as you try to learn from your experience. For many, life soon gets back to normal or possibly a “new” normal, after a reaction.
However, if things are not getting better, and you or your child with allergies feel very anxious, talk to your doctor and a referral to a specialist who can help with coping strategies.
For parents of children with food allergy
You are a role model for your child. Help your child feel confident in daily life by following these tips:
- Remember that your child learns from you. When your words and behaviour show that you are confident, your child will feel the same. Try not to use words that can scare your child such as describing them as “deathly allergic” or saying “this food can kill my child”. Instead, talk about the fact that food allergies can be managed.
- Empower your child. Increase your child’s sense of control by involving them in managing their allergy. Help them build their skills, such as reading food labels and learning how to use their auto-injectors.
- Prepare your child for new situations. Visit new places ahead of time and introduce your child to the adults who will take care of them. Tell your child about plans to keep them safe, including emergency steps.
- Problem solve with your child. If your child is worried about a situation, talk to them about their concerns and involve them in coming up with ideas about what they and others could do to help. For older children, writing the plan down may make it feel more “official”.
- Be available for difficult conversations. If your child thinks that a topic is off limits or makes you feel uneasy, they may not talk to you. Sometimes they fill in the details with their imagination, which can be more frightening than reality.
- The lessons you teach your child when they are young will help them to self-manage as they get older.
- Here are a few resources on our site that you may find helpful:
Webinar for kids on allergies and anxiety
- Webinar on the emotional and social challenges experienced by families living with food allergy
- Watch now
Article from food allergy counsellor Samara Carroll on food allergy anxiety
- Find a list of healthcare organizations that can provide further support
- Additional healthcare support