Rise of child food allergies

by Taylor Perdue, Tatjana Kondraschow–

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New River Valley, May 9 – Foods Not Allowed: Signs put up in daycares indicating which foods are forbidden and will not be served. Photograph: Tatjana Kondraschow

 

Schools, daycares, and even nurseries have had to drastically change and take major precautions in recent years due to the massive increase in severe food allergies in children — mainly ages 5 to 13.

In the New River Valley area, schools have had to do multiple PSAs, that update all the time, like the one for Radford City Schools that updates its rcps.org website frequently. The website describes first how any kind of nuts are banned from the premises and then introduces a new option that will be offered for free to students — sunflower butter, which is, “a safe and tasty choice for children with peanut, tree nut, and soy allergies … it is free of peanuts, tree nuts, gluten, soy, and dairy.”

Tierney Whelan, a daycare teacher from Montgomery County schools, talks about a child at one daycare with a severe dairy allergy and the kinds of snacks they can and cannot serve. In an interview, Whelan states, “We can’t allow any dairy in the classroom when he comes in. When we serve a morning snack to the kids, we just don’t serve any dairy even to the kids who can have it just because we want to avoid the possibility of [the child] consuming any dairy even off the floor or from another child because he would have a severe allergic reaction even from just eating a little something with dairy.”

Elementary schools and even high schools have had to take precautions. For instance, just three months ago, WDBJ reported that a senior from William Byrd High School passed away due to an allergic reaction to nuts.

Not only children, but parents are having to make serious adjustments in their homes but also to their social lives. A report released in February of this year by the Food Allergy Facts and Statistics website revealed that parents with children with food allergies in the U.S. collectively spend $25 billion annually and also revealed that “more than one-quarter of parents surveyed during food allergy appointments report that their children do not participate in camp or sleepovers because of food allergy. More than 15 percent do not go to restaurants, and more than 10 percent avoid child care settings or playdates at friends’ houses.” 

Jessie Hamblen, mother of three, said at her children’s private school, kids cannot even eat any thing with nuts for breakfast or before coming to school in case they breathe or touch a student with a nut allergy. Laura Wang, mother of three and teacher, had a child in her class that, “…had super severed food allergies and had to leave by ambulance three times in one school year.”

Though there is much debate on the reason for the incline in food allergies, everyone agrees on the safety of children. Whelan says, “Our main goal is the safety of our kids. Though the precautions we take are extreme, it’s all good in the end to make sure our kids are healthy and safe from anything harmful that could be easily avoidable.”