AMUK Healthy Living Blog


Should Schools Be Catering For Allergies?

Author : Hazel Econs
Related Conditions : Anaphylaxis (Nut Allergy) , Food Intolerance / non-allergic food hypersenstivity , Hyperactivity - Attention Deficit Disorder

Are you one of the many parents, who has a child with allergies and intolerances, shortly about to start school for the first time, or to move on to a new school?  Are you feeling anxious about your child coming into contact with “unsafe” foods?

Researchers tell us that allergies are becoming more widespread and certainly that is our experience in our clinics.  However, besides peanuts and other foods, which can cause children allergic reactions for which they may need to carry an Epipen, there are a number of common foods that give youngsters distressing symptoms but are caused by intolerances as opposed to allergies.

Many of these reactive items are very common such as eggs, lactose and dairy products as well as gluten and grains, that are in bread, pies, pasta, cakes, biscuits as well as many convenience foods.   Food manufacturers are becoming more aware of the growing demand for dairy-free, wheat-free and gluten-free foods as we see more and more Free From foods on the supermarket shelves, but what about adults who are responsible for the care of children?

My feeling is that more education is required for all those involved in the care of children with allergies and intolerances, parents, grandparents as well as nursery and school staff. 

Researchers found a rather sloppy approach to protecting children from allergic reactions, with more than 10% of all exposures to egg, milk products or peanuts being non-accidental, i.e. the parent or carer was aware of both the child’s allergy problem and the ingredients of food, but went ahead and gave to food to the child!  There appears to be a lack of food safety, with not enough attention to ingredients, the children’s needs or double checking labeling.

In this same study carried out with 500 children, in spite of parents and carers being informed of the child’s problems, the number of reactions was surprisingly high. 70% had at least one reaction and more than 50% had more than one reaction. The co-author of the study concluded that “…everyone who is around the child needs to know about the allergy and understand what to do to keep the child safe.”   It can be difficult to avoid common foods, but once the discipline and awareness is in place, it ought to be fairly straightforward. 

With the growing number of allergy and intolerance sufferers it is time we took the matter very seriously and understood the ramifications and seriousness of a child with an allergy.  

Have you ever considered that a child whose behavior deteriorates after eating or drinking may be because of what they have consumed?  Or that a child whose lacks concentration after lunch or becomes lethargic could be because of what he/she had eaten?

It is no longer the occasional child in a school that has a problem with allergies or intolerances, it is becoming more and more common.  Is it not time that schools acknowledged the increase in allergic reactions amongst their pupils and offered dairy-free, nut-free, gluten-free and other options as standard fare on the school menu?   What do you think? 


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