One in five Irish families have children with a food allergy, yet only 60% of schools have a policy in place to deal with allergic reactions, according to a recent survey of mothers.
The survey also discovered that the vast majority of mums (97%) want to see epinephrine pens made available in public places such as schools and restaurants.
They also think the Government should make food allergy policies mandatory in schools.
The research, conducted by website MummyPages.ie, polled more than 1,000 mothers. It found the most common food allergies and intolerances in Irish children are eggs (24%), milk (22%), and nuts (19%).
In relation to diagnosis, more than four in five (82%) of mothers said they were dissatisfied with the paediatric allergy services available in Ireland, while half said they did not receive adequate information from their GP about how to deal with their child’s food allergy.
Only 51% of children displaying food allergy-related symptoms have been medically tested by an allergy specialist, while an additional 25% of allergy suffering-children are currently waiting for an appointment.
Almost a quarter of mothers said they felt they were forced to diagnose their child’s food allergy or intolerance themselves.
Laura Haugh, from MummyPages.ie, explained that home diagnosis could lead to unnecessary dietary restrictions and inadequate nutrition.
“The long delays for mums trying to access paediatric allergy care services means that many mums are taking it upon themselves to diagnose their child’s allergy at home,” said Ms Haugh.
“Suspected food allergies and intolerances should always be evaluated, diagnosed, and treated by a qualified medical professional.”
Nutrition therapist Heather Leeson agreed with Ms Haugh, saying: “If you suspect that your child is reacting to a food or a number of foods it is very important to follow up and get advice from a doctor or nutritionist specialising in this area.”
The survey also revealed the majority of families living with a food allergy sufferer have changed their shopping habits drastically, choosing to eliminate the allergens from the diet of the entire household.
Shopping also takes longer for these families, since they have to be extra careful about ingredients and read product labels on all good s before buying.
Subsequently, 35% of families felt they had to stop eating out because restaurants did not cater to their culinary needs.
The majority tend to cook from scratch each day as a safer alternative to feeding their families with convenience foods.
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