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New questionnaire screens children with food allergies for anxiety

Published: July 12, 2021

Children with food allergies may suffer from excessive anxiety related to their condition, which can lead to poorer management and compromised quality of life. Until now, however, there was no questionnaire available that specifically assessed anxiety in these children and their families. Instead, allergists and food allergy researchers had to rely on general measures of pediatric anxiety that were less precise and less sensitive to change measured before and after intervention.
To close that gap, researchers at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) have developed a new scale specifically to measure food allergy related anxiety in children. The Scale of Food Allergy Anxiety (SOFAA), was developed in partnership by medical professionals in CHOP’s Food Allergy Center and a cognitive-behavioral psychologist specializing in pediatric anxiety, in consultation with parents of children with food allergies. The findings validating the SOFAA were published recently in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: In Practice, an official journal of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthmas & Immunology (AAAI).
To provide the most complete and accurate assessment of a child’s food allergy-related fears, they developed two separate questionnaires: the SOFAA-C for children and the SOFAA-P for parents or caregivers. The SOFAA-C is intended for children and adolescents ages 8 to 18 to assess food allergy-related anxiety and related anxious avoidance behaviors over the past week. For the SOFAA-P, parents rate their perceptions of their child’s food allergy-related anxiety and anxious avoidance over the past week.
The researchers tested the validity and reliability of the new SOFAA scales on 77 parent-child pairs. The research team found strong agreement on anxiety scores between children and their parents, and those who retook the survey at a later timepoint maintained similar scores, underscoring the reliability of the tool.
“We hope that the SOFAA can be used as a quick screener for all children with food allergies and identify those who need a referral to a mental health provider for treatment of their fears” said lead author Katherine Dahlsgaard, PhD. She added that “we have chosen to make the SOFAA free to use and easily accessible online so that researchers and clinicians interested in measuring anxiety in children with food allergies have a valid tool at their disposal.”
The SOFAAs can be downloaded for free at
The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: In Practice is an official journal of the AAAAI, focusing on practical information for the practicing clinician.

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