Allergy

Updated 08 October 2014

Blackboard chalk may spur allergies

A protein used in a common classroom item may cause a reaction in kids with milk allergies.

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Dustless chalk may cause allergy and asthma symptoms in students with a milk allergy, researchers have found.

Many schoolteachers use dustless chalk to keep hands and classrooms clean. But this type of chalk often contains a milk protein called casein, which can trigger respiratory problems in children with a milk allergy, according to the study.

"Chalks that are labelled as being anti-dust or dustless still release small particles into the air," lead author Dr Carlos Larramendi said in a journal news release.

"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 in kids

Milk allergy affects about 300 000 children in the United States, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI).

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

Sublett said parents of children with a milk allergy should ask to have their child seated in the back of the classroom, where they are less likely to inhale particles from dustless chalk.

"Teachers should be informed about foods and other triggers that might cause health problems for children," Sublett said. "

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."

More information

The Nemours Foundation has more about milk allergy.

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Dr Morris is the Principal Allergist at the Cape Town and Johannesburg Allergy Clinics with postgraduate diplomas in Allergology, Dermatology, Paediatrics and Family Medicine dealing with both adult and childhood allergies. obesity and diabetes societies and runs a trial centre for new drugs.

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