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Food Allergies


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At our staff meeting last night, we spent a long time discussing children's food allergies and how to manage them with regard to cooking/food preparation activities and parties/special events at the nursery.

 

The discussion came about because we have a little boy who started last week whose parents stated that he was allergic to gluten and eggs. As it happened, during his first week we were making toast with the children; when he saw what we were doing he got very excited and indicated that he was used to eating that for breakfast. So we rang Mum to check whether he could have some and she said that he can't have uncooked bread but toast with butter on is fine!!!!

 

There are obviously many children who do have severe reactions and allergies to particular foodstuffs and of course we need to be extremely careful to make sure that their individual needs are identified and met. But we wonder whether some parents write down what they would PREFER their children not to have and class it as an allergy? Another parent gave us a huge list of all the E numbers that her child couldn't have under any circumstances but one day when he stayed for lunch, the things in his lunch box all contained the E numbers on the list and more! Yet we had been tying ourselves up in knots checking the ingredients of everything we provided for him!

 

How do other people manage this problem? We got to the stage last night where we were considering asking every parent to provide a plate of food for their own child, clingfilmed and named, for the Christmas Party and that doesn't seem right.

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I think this is a real issue. I do think that sometimes allergies mean, he doesnt like or wont eat! I have been on supply in a group where a child was present with a citrus fruit allergy and what did she have in her lunch box but an orange!

 

I have also had a child in my class with severe allergies, who had been unable to go to nursery because his allergies were so pronounced but his mother would often phone back at lunch time to say he had had a reaction to tomatoes---yet they were on the allergy list she had given us!

 

However, a true allergy should not be underestimated as it can be life threatening. Cross contamination of one product with another can also be an issue if an allergy is present.

 

I think all we can do is to be cautious really, better to be safe than sorry!

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I'm in a DN. Our Directors are now so worried about this that they will refuse to care for a child with a potentially life threatening allergy. (It doesn't work if Staff have them!!) I have pointed out that this is not very inclusive, and the wording has been softened a little, but he maintains that if a child has an allergy that serious we cannot be held responsible if another child brings something in that could cause a reaction - maybe not even a food stuff!

 

I can see where he is coming from, and certainly now, if parents talk about 'allergy', they are shown this policy and the sheet to be completed - they often say 'Well, s/he doesn't like....' or 'I'd rather they didn't have....' which is another issue entirely! We do have profiles for parents to complete indicating preferences (child and parent!) so the issue is pretty much covered - until the unknown allergy manifests!!!!! :o

 

Sue

 

Sorry - another thought!

Children have colour coded plates - for snack as well as meals. Blue = no known requirements; Green = vegetarian; Yellow = Dairy-free vegetarian; Red = allergy; Orange = vegetarian with other requirements/preferences. If a blue plate child has preferences we refer to a list of these in the room.

 

Sue - there may be more, or other issues! xD

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I indicate on my registration forms Allergies, Intolerances and Parental preferences, I also ask about the childs preferences, this information is conveyed to all staff.

 

Allergies are a serious matter as are parental and child preferences. If a parent describes an allergy, I ask what are the symptoms, when was the last allergic reaction, how was it dealt with, how many reactions has the child had etc. Intolerances are less severe but still a concern to parents for example a child at my setting loves milk, is given milk at home but if he has too much he suffers from diorrhea (spelling!) So he doesn't have milk at preschool, so then the parents feel that they can monitor how much milk he has to drink.

Another parent has chosen to only give her child organic foods, no gluton, no meats, and other dietary preferences, she provides the childs snacks and lunch. This is her perogative, and not for us to question, like I would not question a persons religious or other beliefs.

 

Allergies are discussed at 1st aid training and I always think it is important to have at least some idea of what to look out for with regards to allergic reaction, and what procedures to take. As our children are so young, a child in our care may have his/her 1st allergic reaction whilst with us, especially as we have such a variety of different foods to sample at our snack bar. I don't have a food allergy but have had a nasty allergic reaction to too much sun, yet on another day I have had no such reaction. This leads me to think that there may also be different degree's of reaction to different levels of exposure. It is certainly not 'black and white'.

 

We should accept and respect peoples preferences, be aware that intolerances can change so keep records updated regularly and be allergic aware, to be as ready as possible in the event of a serious allergic reaction.

 

I have a red sign in the kitchen with childs name, and information re: Allergies, preferences and intolerances for all staff to see. We also keep parents informed of what foods have been offered at the snack bar each day ( daily notes written up on a whiteboard). It's all about sharing information and communicating well with all parents and the children.

 

Peggy

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Can I ask how you deal with individual children's allergies/intolerances/preferences during group cooking activities, Peggy?

 

 

When we do cooking activities they are in small groups 1-2 or 1-4 ratio, so children with particular needs can be supervised, grouped with children with the same needs, ie: gluton free diet ( we have 3 children with this diet). Again it's really about being fully informed by parents and even sharing recipes / resources / ingredients donated etc with them. Cooking is done in the kitchen, obviously supervised which is seperated from the hall , in full view, by a stairgate. If I had a child with a severe allergy, then I would ensure I had a recipe that the child could 'cook' which was safe, this would be done 1-1, the child wouldn't feel segregated because the children love to watch each other, or wait for their turn on the other side of the gate. All food from cooking activities is taken home at the end of the session. Out of 16 children I have 6 children with intolerances or parental dietary preferences, I don't have anyone with a severe allergy at the moment ( that we parents are aware of!!)

 

Peggy

 

p.s. My Easter reading was a large 'organic food' recipe book, which featured healthy info about certain foods ( and unhealthy info), not sure about factual integrity of some of what I read, a bit like asking a butcher to research and write a book about vegetarianism :o kindly given to me by a parent who wanted to help me understand about her particular preferences for her child.

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