Kids with allergies feel worse-off

Hospital admissions for allergic reactions have doubled in Australia over the past decade, and were five times higher in young children - suggesting that the rate of allergy is increasing in kids. Allergic diseases are the most common chronic problems in children. But as rates of allergy increase, what’s known about the impact an allergy has on children outside the obvious, like the risk of anaphylaxis or other adverse effects? A new study from Finland has set out to learn more.

The study used data from the International Children’s Worlds survey - an international survey looking at the wellbeing of primary-school aged children from across the world, as told by the children themselves. The researchers used data from the Finland cohort in the study - in all, about 2000 students - who self-reported how satisfied they were with their life, family, friends, school environment and body image. They also asked the children about their allergies, as well as socio-economic factors like whether their parents worked and their ethnic identity.

Most Finnish children were very satisfied with their life but there was a significant gap in happiness between non-allergic and allergic children. Eczema stood out as an allergic disease that led to a reduced feeling of well-being in children, though other allergies also had an effect. Asthma and hay fever had no impact on a child’s perceived well-being, though all of the children with asthma in the study were also on medication to treat it.

Implications

Childhood is a tricky time, and it’s important for kids feel good about themselves as they make the journey from child to adult. While the physical risks and issues associated with an allergy are usually obvious, what may fall by the wayside is how an allergy makes a child feel - and this research emphasises that. Simply checking in with the effect an allergy is having on how a child might be feeling is a step in the right direction - and may put them on a path to improvements in mood and wellbeing.

References

Haanpaa et al. (2018). Association of allergic diseases with children’s life satisfaction: population based study in Finland. BMJ Open doi: 10.1136/ bmjopen-2017-019281.