Teachers can learn quite a lot on the first day of school….as I did about five years ago. When a six year old child arrived in class, he promptly told me that he had a “bad” allergy. He did not have a note from a parent, not a note from a doctor not a note from the school nurse. I asked him to tell me about his allergy. This was his immediate answer:
“Most everyone else has an allergy…so I do too. I am allergic to NOT having chocolate cake every day when I get home from school. If I have chocolate cake, I feel fine.”
The surprising fact was that his mother did indeed make him a small chocolate cake each day. The cake was hot and ready when he arrived home. She didn’t want to make him feel badly for NOT having an allergy.
True story…no kidding! But…allergies are serious and not something to tie in with popularity in a classroom.
Teaching school these days is sometimes like being a physician without a medical degree or a nurse who never attended nursing school or a child psychologist with only nine college hours of psychology. There are multiple allergies in multiple classrooms and these allergies can absolutely be life threatening. It is a very frightening reality…even for a veteran teacher. I must admit that I rarely heard about serious allergies earlier in my career. At that time, I honestly never had a student to become ill from a negative reaction to an allergy source.
What caused the world to change? Medical research tells us that these severe allergies exist and exist at an alarming growth rate. A site titled everydayhealth.com states the following: “Between 1997 and 2011, food allergies among children under age 18 jumped 50%, according to a 2013 report from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)”.
Why are childhood allergies on a quick rise? There are theories. Rarely is a definitive answer found.
A sampling of leading theories:
1. Better hygiene. Our much improved ability to prevent germs has caused our immune system to become off balance. This is referred to as the “hygiene hypothesis”.
2. Some American parents wait to introduce infants to foods that are potential allergens like peanuts. In cultures where peanuts are given to children at an early age, the number of peanut allergies is lower than in the United States.
3. Parents have been reporting food and skin allergies at an increased rate. Doctors are better able to identify children with serious allergies. Therefore, doctors appear to be reporting more cases of allergy.
What foods cause the highest number of allergies in children?
According to NBC’s Today Show, approximately 90% of all food allergies are caused by the following foods:
1. cow’s milk
4. tree nuts
Two possible preventive measures are:
1. breast-feeding for 6 to 12 months
2. a delay in introducing solid foods
Theories and speculation about a very real problem for young children. What is needed…more training for parents, more training for teachers, more research.