Allergies and intolerances

monkey nutsFood sensitivities – food allergies and intolerances, including coeliac disease – are a fact of life in the daily practice of early childhood care and education (ECCE) providers. Food allergies in particular have increased in recent years, especially among young children. Reaction symptoms 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 sensitivities are controlled in the same way: making sure the child does not come into contact with the foods they react to. Accommodating food sensitive 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:

  1. Increasing the level of knowledge and awareness of food sensitivities, particularly food allergy, amongst staff members, and
  2. Working with the parents/guardian of the child in question to draw up a management plan to ensure the child’s safety within the early childhood environment.

It 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 the 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.

Early Childhood Ireland and safefood have collected the following documents which we hope will support your practice on a daily basis.

bagelsAn interactive resource for people who suffer from food sensitivity, their family members, those who handle food and health professionals.

A guide for caterers on making food safely, including instructions regarding allergy awareness.

An educational resource for caterers incorporating a practical guideline for serving customers who may have a food allergy, a food intolerance, coeliac condition or who may wish to avoid a particular food for other reasons.

Procedure for dealing with a query from a customer who wishes to know if a meal or other food is suitable for them.

Useful contacts

little bites / ECI footer