Parental knowledge and attitudes towards food allergy
Date of Award
Master of Medicine (MMed)
Dr. Kiragu Elizabeth
Dr. Waceke Nganga
Dr. Kamenwa Rose
Paediatrics and Child Health (East Africa)
Background: Food allergy and other allergen-induced diseases are an increasing problem globally. This has been documented in studies done in Western countries as well as some parts of Africa. The prevalence of food allergy is highest during the first 2 years of life. For allergen-induced illness, avoidance of triggers and prevention of fatal reactions are the mainstay of treatment. Unnecessary withdrawal of suspected protein-rich foods at a time that is critical for children’s growth may lead to malnutrition and its related complications. This study aimed to understand the gaps in knowledge and misconceptions about food allergy among parents as these affect the general nutrition of children.
Objectives: The primary objective was to determine the knowledge and attitudes towards food allergy among parents of children below 14 years of age at AKUHN. The secondary objective was to determine the factors associated with the parents’ knowledge and attitudes.
Methods: This was a descriptive mixed cross-sectional study combining both quantitative and qualitative methods. The design was explanatory sequential, where quantitative data were collected using a self-administered questionnaire followed by focus group discussions. Quantitative data was collected using a self-administered questionnaire from 297 parents of children below 14 years. The questionnaire assessed the knowledge of food allergy in the areas of aetiology, diagnosis, management, and prognosis and the parents’ attitude towards food allergy with a Likert scale structure of stems. The tool was piloted with 29 participants to assess for clarity and ease of response. Following this phase, parents were contacted by phone to participate in focus group discussions. Qualitative data were analysed done using SPSS 22 and thematic analysis was done for the qualitative data.
Results: This study revealed that the majority of the parents had poor knowledge of food allergy. Only 1% of the participants scored more than 80% which was considered a good knowledge level. There were misconceptions among the parents regarding the aetiological mechanisms of food allergy, the factors that contribute to the development of food allergy, and the effect on the affected children’s diet. During the focus group discussions, parents demonstrated good knowledge of the trigger foods and the associated symptoms. Overall, the participants did not agree that food allergy was a serious problem among children in Kenya. However, there was agreement that feeding children with food allergy and avoiding triggers was difficult. Participants also believed that health workers were not well informed about food allergy. The demographic factors of parents did not influence their knowledge scores or attitudes toward food allergy. There was expressed need to create public awareness about food allergies.
Conclusion: The majority of parents had poor knowledge of food allergy irrespective of the level of education, age, and having a child with food allergy.
Francis, N. J. (2021). Parental knowledge and attitudes towards food allergy (Unpublished master's dissertation). Aga Khan University, East Africa.