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Food allergy: Impact on health-related quality of life

Sally A Noone, RN, MSN
Section Editor
Scott H Sicherer, MD, FAAAAI
Deputy Editor
Elizabeth TePas, MD, MS


Approximately 8 percent of children and up to 5 percent of adults in the United States are affected by food allergy [1]. Food-allergic reactions are the leading cause of emergency department visits for anaphylaxis in the United States [2]. The only therapy for food allergy is emergency treatment in the case of an accidental exposure that triggers a reaction. The mainstay of management of food allergy is avoidance of the food(s) that causes the allergic reaction. Patients and families must be vigilant about food allergen avoidance in a variety of settings (eg, home, restaurants, schools, camps, social gatherings). The burden of avoidance and fear of an accidental exposure can increase anxiety and result in reduced health-related quality of life (HRQL) [3,4]. (See "Anaphylaxis: Emergency treatment" and "Prescribing epinephrine for anaphylaxis self-treatment" and "Management of food allergy: Avoidance" and "Food allergy in schools and camps".)

This topic reviews questionnaires used to measure HRQL and discusses the impact of food allergy on HRQL. A broader overview of HRQL assessment is discussed separately. (See "Evaluation of health-related quality of life (HRQL) in patients with a serious life-threatening illness".)


Quality of life (QOL) is defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as "an individual's perception of his/her position of life in the context of the culture and value systems in which he/she lives and in relation to his/her goals, expectations, standards, and concerns" [5]. HRQL refers to a person's or group's perception of the effect of an illness and its therapy on their QOL and daily functioning. HRQL has three components: social, psychological, and physical. (See "Evaluation of health-related quality of life (HRQL) in patients with a serious life-threatening illness".)

Two types of instruments exist to measure HRQL: generic and disease specific [6-8]. Both questionnaires aim to measure impairments that patients or their families, rather than health professionals, consider important. Patients can have similar levels of clinical impairment and yet have widely different measures of HRQL.

Generic questionnaires are useful in comparing different diseases, and results may be compared with group norms. In addition, these questionnaires are sensitive to comorbidities. Generic instruments may miss small changes in a patient's impairment over time because they do not incorporate questions directly related to the specific disorder.


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Literature review current through: Sep 2016. | This topic last updated: Aug 17, 2016.
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