Allergy-like conditions and health-care contacts among children with exclusion diets at school

Authors


Nina Gunnarsson, Department of Neurotec, Division of Occupational Therapy, Karolinska Institutet, 23200, SE-141 83 Huddinge, Sweden.
E-mail: nina.gunnarsson@lime.ki.se

Abstract

Aim:  To find out whether children with exclusion diet at school had allergy-like conditions that could explain their food avoidance, the objective of this study was to describe health-care contacts and diagnostic testing among schoolchildren with exclusion diet and compare the magnitude of allergy-like conditions between those children who had vs. had not consulted health-care professionals. Telephone interviews were conducted with the parents of 230 schoolchildren, aged 6–18 years, with certificates for exclusion diets at school.

Results:  The majority of the schoolchildren (85%) had consulted health-care professionals for food-related problems, and 68% were doctor-diagnosed as having food hypersensitivity. Those who had consulted health-care professionals specifically for their food-related problems had more complex and severe problems compared with those who had not consulted health-care professionals. Breathing difficulties (27/196) and anaphylaxis (9/196) related to intake of food were reported only for those who had sought health-care professionals (n = 196). Regardless of whether the children had consulted the health-care professionals, their food-related problems were consistent with food hypersensitivity. Schoolchildren avoided food items known to be associated with food hypersensitivity such as tree nuts, fruit, egg, peanut, lactose and fish. Furthermore, 83% of the 230 children also had allergic diseases (i.e. asthma, eczema or hay fever) or were hypersensitive to other substances besides food, and 83% had at least one sibling or parent with hypersensitivity to foods or other substances.

Conclusions and implications for the school nurse:  Schoolchildren with food certificates for exclusion diets, based on parents’ statements, have food-related and allergy-like problems that may well motivate exclusion diets at school. The school nurses can rely on the parents’ information as to what foods their children should avoid, even when doctor diagnoses have not been made or health-care consultations have not been carried out.

Ancillary