6 Hidden Food Allergens That Can Affect Your Child at School
Allergies commonly affect people of all ages, but they are even more common among children. Unfortunately, there is no way to cure allergies. Popular allergy medications like antihistamines can help to control the symptoms, but they don’t provide a full allergy relief. You can only keep them at bay by avoiding or minimizing exposure to the allergens. However, avoiding allergy triggers can be challenging, as there is always a risk of exposure.
When it comes to allergies in children, allergen exposure is possible anywhere, especially at school, where they spend a significant part of the day. Allergy triggers like foods, latex or stinging insects can affect children at school. Children with food allergies are at a higher risk of an allergic reaction at school. Apart from eight most common food allergens (milk, egg, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, wheat, fish, and shellfish), there are a lot of other food allergens that can be found in the classroom.
#1: Dustless Chalk
Dustless chalk used at schools for writing on the board may contain traces of casein, a protein found in milk, which means exposure to chalk may trigger a reaction in children with a milk allergy. Explain to your child why he or she should stay away from the chalkboard as much as possible and wash their hands after using chalk. You can also ask the school administration to replace the chalkboard in your child’s classroom with an alternative like a dry erase board or a smart board.
#2: Hand Soaps
If your child has a severe allergy, you can ask all teachers and classmates to wash their hands after being exposed to allergenic substances. This will help you kid stay safe during the school hours.
However, various soaps and hand wipes may contain extracts from well-known allergens like dairy, wheat, soy or nuts. It is important to always check the ingredients labels to make sure the product doesn’t have any allergens inside.
You may also want to teach your child to use paper towels to dry hands, because cloth towels may contain food residue.
#3: Plants in the Classroom
Students often plant seeds in the classroom; however, this activity can involve exposure to various allergens. Thus, the soil used for potting may contain nut shells, soy or other allergens. Pots for plants made of egg cartons and other containers can also contain allergenic ingredients. If your child has a food allergy, ask the teacher to use safe alternatives to potting soil and pots.
#4: Arts and Crafts Materials
A lot of allergens are found in various arts and crafts supplies. For example, modeling clay, finger paint and some pastes may contain traces of wheat, and the latter may also contain milk, corn, or oat. Tempera paints are based on eggs, which means they can be dangerous for kids with an egg allergy. Children with soy allergy should avoid crayons containing soy. Fortunately, all these materials have their allergen-free alternatives.
#5: Play Kitchens and Food-Related Activities
Many classrooms have a play kitchen, which may hide various food allergy triggers. If your kid is food allergic, make sure he doesn’t get into contact with empty egg and milk cartons, or yogurt containers.
Besides, if your child’s class organizes baking activities every now and then, watch out for allergens that may affect your child there.
Birthdays and holidays are often celebrated with cakes or cupcakes at school. If your child has a food allergy, you can ask to organize a nonfood celebration.
Keep in mind that it’s very important to inform the teachers and the school nurse about your child’s food allergy.
#6: Classroom Animals
Some schools organize bird-feeding projects involving bird seed. If your child’s allergic to tree nuts, wheat, or seeds, he or she should skip this activity. This is because most bird food contains peanut butter or other nuts, exposure to which may trigger an anaphylactic reaction in a peanut-allergic child.
A hummingbird feeder is a good alternative for the class with food allergic students. It only contains sugar, water, and food coloring.
If there are pets in the classroom, your child should to stay away from them and their food to avoid exposure to pet dander, as well as nut milk, or egg traces contained in the pet food.
The Bottom Line
If you think that your child is allergic to certain foods, make sure to visit a doctor to get a proper diagnosis. If you determine the allergy trigger, it will be easier to avoid the symptoms.