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What nannies need to know about food allergies

Over 15 million Americans suffer from some sort of food allergy or intolerance, including 3 million children. Nannies, babysitters and other childcare providers should know the following things about food sensitivities to protect the children in their care, and to know how to react if something does happen.

Food sensitivities are becoming more common – According to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of children suffering from food allergies increased by 18 percent from 1997 to 2007.

Know how to use an epi-pen –  Even if the child in your care does not have an allergy, every nanny should know proper storage and use of epinephrine, and understand what to do if the drug is administered.

Sensitivities can go undetected for long periods of time – Some children show signs of an allergic reaction the first time they try an offending food, but it may take months or even years for others. Nannies should be on the lookout for signs of an allergic reaction (itching, throat tightness, coughing) even if no new food has been introduced to the diet.

Some foods cause more severe reactions than others – The most common food allergies result from ingestion of milk, soy, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts and seafood. Avoid serving a child food from any of these groups until you have permission from his or her parent and physician.

Some schools may have restrictions on certain foods – Many schools are now "peanut free" zones. If you prepare lunch for your employer's child, make sure that you are aware of the school's policies.

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