For children undergoing immunotherapy – a promising treatment for peanut allergies – uncomfortable side effects can induce anxiety, perhaps to the point of skipping doses or dropping treatment entirely. But guiding young patients to the mindset that uncomfortable side effects are a sign that treatment is working can help reduce anxiety, according to new research by Stanford psychologists.
The study, published Jan. 28 in Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: In Practice, found that when children perceived mild reactions to immunotherapy as useful, they were less anxious about symptoms and also less likely to skip doses that would impede treatment. They were also less likely to experience side effects at the end of their treatment when real peanuts are introduced – which for some patients can induce anxiety all over again.
Lead author Lauren Howe is a 2014 Shaper Family Graduate Fellow, Psychology. Co-author Kari Leibowitz is a 2015 Stanford Graduate Fellow and a 2018 Stanford Interdisciplinary Graduate Fellow.