How to Cater for Food Allergies at Your Setting
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.
What are the most common food allergies?
Recent figures confirmed that toddlers are up to twice as likely to be admitted to hospital with an allergic reaction than the elderly. The most common food allergies amongst toddlers and young children are nuts, cow's 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.
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
- 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 a 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 at 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, practicing good hygiene by washing your hands whenever you come into contact with a 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 where 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.