Allergies and Intolerances
Food hypersensitivity refers to food allergy, food intolerance and coeliac disease.
Food allergies in particular have increased in recent years, especially among young children. The symptoms of an allergic reaction resemble those of hay fever or an upset stomach. Sometimes however, the symptoms can be more serious, particularly in the case of a severe food allergy where reactions to certain foods can be immediate and life-threatening.
All food hypersensitivities are controlled in the same way: making sure the child does not come into contact with the foods they react to. Accommodating food hypersensitive children in a supportive and safe environment is now a task faced by ECCE providers throughout the world and for whom the health and welfare of the children in their care is of primary concern. There are two elements to achieving this:
- Increasing the level of knowledge and awareness of food hypersensitivities, particularly food allergy, amongst staff members, and
- Working with the parents/guardians to draw up a management plan to ensure that the child is kept safe and not stigmatised within the early childhood environment.
This can be difficult and takes a certain amount of skill for staff to meet the needs of individual children with a food allergy or intolerance while serving the needs of the other children in their care at the same time. However, open and ongoing communication between the parents/guardian and staff, being vigilant and planning for emergencies will minimise any potential risks. Together with clear written policies and procedures and good staff education, this will go a long way to easing any concerns that staff may have.
Watch the videos
In this video Dr. James McIntosh answers some frequently asked questions on food allergy, food intolerance and coeliac disease. Including information on signs and symptoms, associated foods, how common they are, and what people should do if they think they may have a suspect food allergy or intolerance.
Ruth Charles (Registered Dietitian: Paediatrics), describes some of the symptoms of food allergy, food intolerance and coeliac disease and how early childcare providers can provide a safe environment for children with food hypersensitivities.
How early childcare providers can provide safe food for children with food hypersensitivities, and how to deal with a food allergy related emergency.
For more information on food hypersensitivities, and for information on general food safety, go to https://www.safefood.net/food-safety.