Exposure To School Chalk May Enhance Children's Milk Allergies
May 2, 2013

Exposure To School Chalk May Enhance Children’s Milk Allergies

Alan McStravick for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online

For those of us of a certain age, we may remember some of the assigned classroom chores like erasing the blackboard or taking the dust caked erasers to the odd box-shaped vacuum meant to pull chalk residue off the eraser fibers. Of course, time has passed since those days. And with that passage of time has come advances in chalk technology. These days´ teachers opt for the new dustless chalk to keep both their hands and their classrooms clean. However, this new chalk spells bad news for the child who has a milk allergy.

According to lead study author Carlos H. Larramendi, MD, “Chalks that are labeled as being anti-dust or dustless still release small particles into the air.” These particles consist of casein, a milk protein often used in low-powder chalks. Larramendi continues, “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.”

The team has published their findings in the current issue of the scientific journal of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology´s (ACAAI) Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAI).

It has been estimated, according to the ACAAI, some 300,000 children are affected by a milk allergy in the US alone. Previous (and now disproven) research claimed a majority of those affected would outgrow the allergy by the time of their third birthday. More recent studies have shown the allergy can continue on into school age, with most affected ultimately outgrowing the allergy by age 16.

Dustless chalk isn´t the only culprit containing this troublesome allergen for students with a milk allergy, either. According to 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.”

While some schools have moved to whiteboards and overhead projectors, opting for a tech friendly approach to teaching, it is apparent chalk is not relinquishing its hold on our classrooms anytime soon. Sublett, therefore, advises parents of milk allergic children to request a seat toward the back of the classroom for their child. Being farther back from the blackboard limits their child´s exposure to this troublesome particulate protein.

"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."

The research team advises parents who learn their child is sneezing, coughing and wheezing at school should schedule an appointment with a board-certified allergist. These professionals can administer proper testing, offer diagnosis and plan effective treatment for your child.