Supporting patients and families

Worry Monster moves in to the Children’s Allergy Service

Worry Monster moves in to the Children’s Allergy Service

For children with food allergies, anxieties and worries around their condition can have a significant emotional impact. Now thanks to your donations, the children’s allergy service at Evelina London has a Worry Monster for young patients to use in their clinic sessions, to help them work through their concerns.

Parents and carers have been impressed with how the new furry friend encourages their children to talk more openly and helps them overcome fears.

Opening up conversations

The cute and friendly Worry Monster lives in the clinic rooms, ready to gobble up any anxieties that our young patients write down to share by putting them in its mouth. These worries stay there, so the monster has a mouthful of different thoughts that different children have put in it.

New patients go through all the worries that have previously been put in the Worry Monster with hospital staff so they can see they have similar concerns to other children with allergies, helping them to feel like they’re not alone and normalising their worries. This can also help to raise awareness of different feelings and explore how to ask for help.

Lizzie Doncaster is mother to nine-year-old Joe, who has multiple life-threatening food allergies and chronic eczema. She was impressed at how much the Worry Monster helped her son during his clinic sessions.

‘It opened up a conversation that I don’t think would have happened without the Worry Monster being shown to him,’ says Lizzie. ‘We went through all the different worries that were thrown up in this particular clinic from other children and Joe said, “I wonder if that’s all the boys that I’m friends with in the clinic” - so that opened up another conversation.

‘The Worry Monster enables him to have a little bit more control over things, and articulate lack of control or wanting more control.

Overcoming fears

The children’s worries can come in many forms, from feeling different to other children to being scared of trying new foods in case they have a severe reaction.

Seven-year-old Rohan suffers from needle phobia, so much so that he has refused any skin prick testing (the most common allergy test) for two years.

‘We actually don’t know what his allergy status is at the moment, which is a big problem as it’s so important,’ explains his mother, Meera Shah. ‘The Worry Monster is one of the tools that’s helping us overcome that, so we can have up-to-date information.

‘I saw an immediate impact within the clinic on Rohan. It helped him express his worries, which he wasn’t able to do before.

‘Using the Worry Monster means that we don’t have to have a direct conversation about it, which he sometimes finds anxiety provoking.’

Making a huge difference

Dr Polly James is a clinical psychologist in the children’s allergy service. She works with families and their children who have multiple and severe food allergies, and says that these conditions can cause numerous problems.

‘Children with allergies face a lot of difficulties which can significantly impact on their quality of life and create a lot of emotional difficulties,’ she explains.

‘Even at a very young age, they can sense that certain foods may not be safe for them to eat or become aware that they cannot eat the same as other children. Talking with children honestly and helping them express their emotions makes it easier for them to feel safe and secure.

‘It’s really fantastic to be able to use the Worry Monster as part of the service we provide to our patients,’ says Polly. ‘It’s a great tool to help reduce worries and emotional difficulties. So many families have been able to benefit from the worry monster, which has made a huge difference to their quality of life.’

Little extras like the Worry Monster may be small, but they make a huge difference to our young patients. Find out more about how you can support Evelina London.

Lead image (from left to right): Douglas, age 9; Caiden, age 8; Joe, age 9; Oliver, age 7; Rohan, age 7