How to Cater for Food Allergies at Your Setting

August 9, 2022 9:43 am
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Following on from Allergy Awareness Week, an event created by Allergy UK to raise awareness of some of the most common allergies, their symptoms and what to do if someone has an allergic reaction, Nursery Resources looked into some of the most common food allergies amongst young children including their causes, symptoms and appropriate preventative actions.

Allergy is the most common chronic disease in Europe. Up to 20% of patients with allergies live with a severe debilitating form of their condition and struggle daily with the fear of a possible asthma attack, anaphylactic shock, or even death from an allergic reaction.

— The European Academy of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (EAACI)

What are the top 14 food allergens?

Celery; Cereals containing gluten; Crustaceans; Eggs; Fish; Lupin; Milk; Molluscs; Mustard; Tree Nuts; Peanuts; Sesame seeds; Soya and Sulphur dioxide (sometimes known as sulphites).

What are the most common food allergies?

Recent figures confirmed that toddlers are up to twice as likely to be admitted to the hospital with an allergic reaction than the elderly. The most common food allergies amongst toddlers and young children are nuts, cows milk and eggs. Other foods that can cause a reaction include wheat, fish and shellfish, but many international children may have an adverse reaction to other types of food depending on their country of origin. For example, many southern European children may be allergic to peaches or apples.

Allergy Alerts

Sometimes foods will have to be recalled or withdrawn if there is a risk to the consumers. There could be a few reasons why this might happen such as; allergy labelling is missing or incorrect if there is any other food allergy risk such as cross-contamination.

If you would like updates from Allergy UK head over to their website and fill in the form which is completely FREE!

What causes allergies?

Many food allergies are passed on through the parents; this is also true for other allergies such as eczema, asthma and hay fever. If a child has one allergy they are also more likely to develop another.

What are the symptoms of food allergies?

Whilst severe reactions are rare amongst young children, there are certain symptoms which may indicate that a child is having an allergic reaction. These include:

  • An itchy rash around the mouth, tongue or eyes
  • Swollen lips, eyes and/or face
  • Runny nose
  • Vomiting/nausea
  • Stomach cramps

It is worth noting that young children are also more likely to experience delayed symptoms if they are allergic to a particular product. This means that they continue to consume food whilst showing signs of chronic symptoms such as eczema, diarrhoea, constipation or reflux, but because these symptoms can be caused by several factors it is not immediately attributed to a food type. It is not until the food is removed from the diet that the symptoms go away, so if you suspect a child may have an underlying food allergy you should contact the parent/guardian immediately.

What can I do to prevent an allergic reaction in my childcare setting?

To reduce the likelihood that a child has an allergic reaction,  good communication between parents and nursery practitioners is vital. It is a legal requirement that you find out from parents if a child has any special dietary requirements, food allergies or special health requirements, and this must be done at the earliest possible opportunity. 

In addition to this, practising good hygiene by washing your hands whenever you come into contact with food that may cause a potential reaction will help your children stay safe.

This is also something you can encourage children to practice, especially after lunch when a child may want to play with a friend who has an allergy.  Children may not realise the effect a certain food allergy could have on another child, so encourage them not to share their meals or snacks at mealtimes to minimize the risk of a child having an allergic reaction under your care.