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Grow & Thrive - Food allergy

  • Volume 3, No 3 - Food allergy. August 2014

    Food allergy and food intolerance can be a threat to life. By learning a bit more about how to read food labels accurately, you can help to minimise the risk for affected children while helping all kids to safely participate in group food situations – such as birthdays and other celebrations.

    Food allergy and food intolerance can be a threat to life. By learning a bit more about how to read food labels accurately, you can help to minimise the risk for affected children while helping all kids to safely participate in group food situations – such as birthdays and other celebrations.

    There are just nine foods that are responsible for more than 90 per cent of all food allergies in children:

    • Peanuts
    • Eggs
    • Milk
    • Soy
    • Wheat 
    • Sesame
    • Tree nuts (such as almonds, cashews and Brazil nuts)
    • Fish*
    • Shellfish*

    *this allergy is more commonly developed in adulthood.

      Of these, the majority of childhood food allergies are to peanuts, eggs and milk. 

      Read between the lines

      In classrooms and early learning settings there are regular occasions for eating together as a group, both as part of a normal day and to celebrate special events. If there are children in the group who have a food allergy this can be a little bit more complicated. Learning more about how to spot potential allergens on food labels can help. 
      If any of the nine most common allergens are in a food product’s ingredients, manufacturers have to say that on the packaging. 
      There are a number of different ways that manufacturers can follow this rule:

      • The allergen might be listed in common language in the ingredient list, eg, ‘sugar, chocolate, egg’. 
      • The allergen might be highlighted at the end of the ingredients list, eg ‘contains egg’. 
      • The allergen might be listed in bold type in the ingredients list, eg ‘sugar, chocolate, egg’. 

      Allergens can also turn up in a product through unintentional cross-contact. If that happens, you may see precautionary allergen labelling. These labels usually appear as ‘may contain …’ or ‘processed in the same factory as …’. This type of labelling is used to indicate both trace contamination – which is small residues – and particulate contamination – which is things like a whole peanut that’s not a part of the ingredients. It’s important to know that this sort of labelling is voluntary for manufacturers and not a guarantee that the allergen either is or isn’t present.

      Learn more

      The  Australian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy (ASCIA) offers free online training for Australian and New Zealand schools and childcare services to help education professionals get access to accurate and consistent education. 
      The  Canadian Why Risk It app helps young people to learn more about food allergy risks. It’s available for Apple, Android and Blackberry. 
      You can read more about food allergies and intolerances on  Raising Children Network.

      Teachers, early childhood educators and families can help children to develop the skills they need to safely manage their food allergy. 

      Food allergy and food intolerance are on the rise in Australia; about 1 in every 10 kids will experience food allergy, and a third of families report that someone in their home has a food allergy. This can be a serious challenge for kids growing up with restrictions about what they can eat, especially as they get older and start to investigate what’s on the plate or in the lunchbox of the child next to them.  

      It’s important to support young children to have an age-appropriate understanding of what their food allergy or intolerance means, while not creating fear about any new food they come across. Even if your service has a ban on a specific food allergen, you will need to have policies and procedures in place that help you minimise risk because risk cannot be entirely removed.

      Your service’s allergy policy

      The key components of your service’s allergy policy are:
      • Providing guidance on how your service identifies children who have food allergies and what those allergies are.
      • Setting out how you develop an individualised management plan for each child with a food allergy. This plan should include a risk minimisation plan and an emergency action plan for each child.
      • Advising on establishing an emergency response plan if a child has an allergic reaction.
      • Suggesting a communication plan that informs parents and staff about your service’s policies and procedures for allergy and anaphylaxis management.
      • Providing contact details for educators so that parents can keep you up to date with any new information about the child’s allergy.
      • An allergy management plan needs to be developed in conjunction with the child’s family and reviewed at least annually.

      An allergy management plan needs to be developed in conjunction with the child’s family and reviewed at least annually. 

      Resources for professionals

      The Australian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy (ASCIA) offers  free online training for Australian and New Zealand schools and childcare services to help education professionals get access to accurate and consistent education about allergy. The childcare portion of the training is approved by ACECQA. Allergy and Anaphylaxis Australia has  resources to help with managing allergy risk in early childhood education and care services.
      You can read more about food allergies and intolerances on  Raising Children Network.  

      Learn more

      You can share our resources with families to help children develop the skills they need to safely manage their food allergy.

      Food allergy and food intolerance are on the rise in Australia; about 1 in every 10 kids will experience food allergy and a third of families report that someone in their home has a food allergy. It’s important to know that food allergy and food intolerance are not the same thing: an allergic reaction involves the immune system while an intolerance reaction does not. Food allergy and intolerance can pose a serious challenge for kids who will grow up with restrictions about what they can eat, and start to self-manage those risks as they get older.  

      Presenting allergies to anyone that needs to know

      Children who are growing up with a food allergy need support and encouragement to have the confidence to explain their allergy clearly and politely to everyone who needs to know – without any apology.

      Children with a food allergy need to:
      • always feel okay about asking if food is suitable for them to eat
      • have the facts about whether a food contains their allergen before they eat, and to respectfully say thank you, but no thank you, if there’s any uncertainty.
      Older children can also learn to read food labels to look out for their allergen and keep an eye on any food preparation that’s going on around them. You can read more about reading food labels in  Food Allergy.

      Policies and procedures

      Having comprehensive and regularly reviewed policies and procedures in place, and making training available to staff, is an essential part of risk management when a child at your school has a food allergy.
      The key components of your school’s allergy policy are:

      • Providing guidance on how your school identifies children who have food allergies and what those allergies are.
      • Setting out how you develop an individualised management plan for each child with a food allergy. This plan should include a risk minimisation plan and an emergency action plan for each child.
      • Advising on establishing an emergency response plan if a child has an allergic reaction.
      • Suggesting a communication plan that informs parents and staff about your school’s policies and procedures for allergy and anaphylaxis management.
      • Providing contact details for teachers so that parents can keep you up to date with any new information about the child’s allergy.

      An allergy management plan needs to be developed in conjunction with the child’s family and reviewed at least annually.

      Learn more

      The Australian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy (ASCIA) offers  free online training for Australian and New Zealand schools and childcare services to help education professionals get access to accurate and consistent education. 

      Allergy and Anaphylaxis Australia has  resources to help with managing allergy risk in schools.

      You can read more about food allergies and intolerances on  Raising Children Network.  

      Share with families

      You can share our resources with families to help children to develop the skills they need to safely manage their food allergy.

      Follow the links below for Grow & Thrive information for families on food allergy. You can also download, print and share this information.   

      0-5 year old children   Download fact sheet

      5-8 year old children   Download fact sheet


     

    Murdoch Childrens Research Institute

    The Centre for Community Child Health is a department of The Royal Children’s Hospital and a research group of Murdoch Childrens Research Institute.