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School Dustless Chalk May Cause Allergy and Asthma Symptoms in Students with Milk Allergy

  • Date: 2013/05/12
  • American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology
  • Synopsis : Study shows dustless chalk may cause allergy and asthma symptoms in students that have a milk allergy.

Main Document

Children with milk allergy may be allergic to school - Chalk dust can contain milk protein, triggering respiratory symptoms.

Milk Allergy - An abnormal response by the body's immune system to milk and products containing milk. Cow's milk is the usual cause of milk allergy, but milk from sheep, goats and buffalo also can cause a reaction. Some children who are allergic to cow's milk are allergic to soy milk, too. Milk allergy is one of the most common food allergies in children. Is milk allergy and lactose intolerance the same thing? Milk allergy is a food allergy, an adverse immune reaction to a food protein that is normally harmless to the non-allergic individual. Lactose intolerance is a non-allergic food sensitivity, and comes from a lack of production of the enzyme lactase, required to digest the predominant sugar in milk. The main symptoms of milk allergy are gastrointestinal, dermatological and respiratory. These can translate to: skin rash, hives, vomiting, and gastric distress such as diarrhea, constipation, rhinitis, stomach pain or flatulence. The clinical spectrum extends to diverse disorders: anaphylactic reactions, atopic dermatitis, wheeze, infantile colic, gastroesophageal reflux (GER), oesophagitis, allergic colitis, headache/migraine, oral irritation, and constipation.

Many of today's school teachers opt for dustless chalk to keep hands and classrooms clean. But according to a study published in the May issue of Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, the scientific journal of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI), this choice in chalk may cause allergy and asthma symptoms in students that have a milk allergy.

Casein, a milk protein, is often used in low-powder chalk. When milk allergic children inhale chalk particles containing casein, life-threatening asthma attacks and other respiratory issues can occur.

"Chalks that are labeled as being anti-dust or dustless still release small particles into the air," said Carlos H. Larramendi, MD, lead study author. "Our research has found when the particles are inhaled by children with milk allergy, coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath can occur. Inhalation can also cause nasal congestion, sneezing and a runny nose."

Milk allergy affects an estimated 300,000 children in the United States, according to the ACAAI.

Although it has been believed the majority of children will outgrow milk allergy by age three, recent studies contradict this theory, showing school aged children are still affected. However, 80 percent of children with milk allergy will likely outgrow it by age 16.

"Chalk isn't the only item in a school setting that can be troublesome to milk allergic students," said James Sublett, MD, chair of the ACAAI Indoor Environment Committee. "Milk proteins can also be found in glue, paper, ink, and in other children's lunches."

Even in the wake of white-boards, overhead projectors and tablets, chalk is a classroom staple that likely won't become extinct anytime soon. Parents with milk allergic children should ask to have their child seated in the back of the classroom where they are less likely to inhale chalk dust, advises Sublett.

"Teachers should be informed about foods and other triggers that might cause health problems for children," said Sublett. "A plan for dealing with allergy and asthma emergencies should also be shared with teachers, coaches and the school nurse. Children should also carry allergist prescribed epinephrine, inhalers or other life-saving medications."

If your child is sneezing and wheezing at school, you should see a board-certified allergist for proper testing, diagnosis and treatment. For more information about pediatric allergies and asthma, and to find an allergist, visit www.AllergyAndAsthmaRelief.org.

The ACAAI is a professional medical organization of more than 5,700 allergists-immunologists and allied health professionals, headquartered in Arlington Heights, Ill. The College fosters a culture of collaboration and congeniality in which its members work together and with others toward the common goals of patient care, education, advocacy and research. ACAAI allergists are board-certified physicians trained to diagnose allergies and asthma, administer immunotherapy, and provide patients with the best treatment outcomes. For more information and to find relief, visit www.AllergyandAsthmaRelief.org




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