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Milk Allergy in Kids Could Also Mean "School Allergy", Study

Update Date: May 02, 2013 10:04 AM EDT

Children with milk allergy may also be "allergic to school," according to a new study.

Researchers found that the dustless chalk many schools now use to keep hands and classrooms clean may actually trigger allergy and asthma symptoms in students with milk allergies.

Researchers explain that dustless or low-powder chalk often contains a milk protein called casein.  When children with milk allergies breathe in the chalk particles containing casein, potentially 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," lead author Dr. Carlos H. Larramendi said in a 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," Larramendi added.

An estimated 300,000 children in the United States suffer from milk allergy. While it is believed that most children outgrow milk allergy by age three, recent research reveals that the opposite.  Researchers found that school aged children are still affected. However, researchers also found that 80 percent of children with milk allergy will likely outgrow it by 16.

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

Researchers say 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 harmful chalk dust.

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

The latest study is published in the May issue of Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.

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