PURPOSE OF THE STUDY.
To examine what information and support parents of children with food allergies require from a dietary consultation.
Parents of children with food allergies participated in 3 focus groups, each with 4 to 7 participants (n = 17 who had 19 children with food allergies).
Ethics committee approval and informed consent were obtained. Participants met in focus groups lasting up to 100 minutes, using topic guides to help identify parental knowledge gaps in food allergy dietary management, and challenges in feeding their children. Although both parents were invited to partake, only mothers participated.
Thematic analysis of the transcripts from the discussions showed emergence of 6 main themes. (1) In general, mothers felt that the dietician helped them protect their children and keep them healthy by ensuring and reassuring them that their child was receiving a nutritionally balanced diet despite restrictions. (2) Another key aspect of the dietician’s role was as a teacher, helping parents to become an expert in food allergy. This was felt to be particularly crucial in the period immediately after the initial diagnosis. (3) Dieticians provided the mothers with hints and tips to maintain normality, such as allergen-free recipes that prevented the child from missing out on special occasions. (4) Dieticians were felt to be a key player in helping promote the child’s independence. (5) The dietician acted as an advocate for the child with food allergies by providing information to the child’s school and communicating with the pediatrician. (6) Finally, dietician involvement was felt to provide emotional support to the caregiver.
This study highlights the value of food allergy specialist dieticians to parents taking care of children with food allergies. Most mothers felt overwhelmed by what they had to do for their child during the period immediately after diagnosis and felt that dieticians were essential in the formulation and implementation of an individualized elimination diet for their child.
This is a small study targeting parents interested in meeting with a dietician after a food-allergy diagnosis. Consultation was helpful for parents in working through the emotional impact of their child’s diagnosis and helping them feel more confident in their ability to meet their child’s nutritional and social needs and avoid unintentional exposure. Therefore, dietary consult could be considered for all children diagnosed with a food allergy.
- Copyright © 2015 by the American Academy of Pediatrics