Chalk dust triggers milk allergy symptoms in kids

May 14, 2013

Low-powder chalk-frequently chosen by educators over older high-powder counterparts to keep hands and classrooms cleaner-can trigger asthma and allergy symptoms in milk-allergic children.

 

Low-powder chalk-frequently chosen by educators over older high-powder counterparts to keep hands and classrooms cleaner-often contains casein, a milk protein that can trigger asthma and allergy symptoms in milk-allergic children.

A recently published small study from Spain involving 12 participants found that this nondietary exposure to supposedly dust-free chalk did indeed produce positive skin and specific immunoglobulin E (IgE) test results, and that the children’s symptoms improved after avoiding chalk in the classroom. The participants ranged in age from preschool-aged infants to school-aged children.

Milk allergy affects an estimated 300,000 children in the United States. Experts believed that most children outgrow the allergy by age 3 years, but recent studies indicate that many school-aged children remain affected, sometimes through high school.

According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, even low-powder chalks release particles into the air. When inhaled by children with milk allergy, these particles can cause such symptoms as coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, nasal congestion, sneezing, and a runny nose.

Other items commonly found in classrooms that can contain milk proteins are glue, paper, ink, and items in other children’s lunches and snacks.

Experts recommend that parents with milk-allergic children who attend classrooms in which chalk is used request that their children be seated to the rear of the room where they are less likely to inhale chalk dust. They also recommend that educators be instructed to have plans in place for dealing with asthma and allergy emergencies.