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Food Allergies: Being Aware and Planning for Care

by Iris Graville
March/April 2010
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Article Link: http://www.childcareexchange.com/article/food-allergies-being-aware-and-planning-for-care/5019242/

In recent years, parents and early childhood educators have become increasingly aware of food allergies in childhood (see Exchange July/August 2008). All it takes is hearing one story about a child in respiratory distress after eating a peanut butter cookie to send people who work with children racing to the pharmacy to get an EpiPen®. And since food allergies (especially to peanuts and tree nuts) ­account for about 150 deaths a year, there is good reason to be concerned. However, while it’s not unusual for parents to request that certain foods be avoided because of “allergies,” confirmed food allergies affect only about 6% of children. This article provides early childhood professionals with important information about food allergies and strategies to manage them in the child care setting.

Facts about food allergies

True food allergies occur when the body’s immune system mistakenly believes a harmless substance, in this case a food, is harmful and triggers the release of histamine, the culprit in most food allergy symptoms. In an attempt to protect the body, the immune system also makes specific antibodies to that food. The next time (and ­every time thereafter) the child eats that specific food, even in small quantities, the immune system again ...

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