On the radio this morning I heard an interview with Dr Aric Sigman, a fellow of the Society of Biology, who has been looking at the cortisol levels (stress hormone) in infants and toddlers in day care as opposed to those cared for at home. He found that the levels are higher in babies and children under five in day care. He was very careful not to draw any conclusions from this – merely to point it out and suggest that it was an area which deserved further study– but inevitably, the headline writers had already got to work.

Common sense would surely suggest that these findings should not be surprising as having to adjust to a different environment must cause some stress to a very young child, even if the long term outcome is not detrimental.

However, the lady from the Day Care Trust who also took part in the interview was very defensive; she feared that this research would just burden working mothers, who had no option but to work, with yet more unnecessary guilt. What appeared odd to me is that she did not suggest that there was another way that allows parents both to work and to care for their children, and that, in these days of cyber-communication, is not that hard to set up: they work flexi-hours from home. This is a particularly attractive option if you have children with serious allergies as the option of leaving them in the care of those who may not understand or be sufficiently vigilant to protect them is a scary one.

The conversation reminded me, if slightly elliptically, of a blog I read recently.  The blogger had two daughters, an eleven year old who had no health issues and an eight-year-old who had multiple life threatening allergies. I will not detail it here as it will only take you five minutes to read at the Egg-Free Epicurean but the thrust of the piece is that, in one’s concern for one’s allergic child, it is very easy either sideline the needs of one’s non-allergic child, or to assume that they understand  and appreciate the risks their sibling runs and the constraints on his or her life, when actually, they really do not.



Way back in 1987, just as I was starting work on a major history of English food, my eighteen-month-old son, Jonathan, and his father were diagnosed with dairy intolerances. Back then the alternatives for those on dairy-free diets were few and far between and pretty unappealing so, after some months of experimentation, I launched Berrydales Special Ices, soya based ices which were dairy and additive free – and tasted delicious! While manufacturing the ices I started a newsletter, The Inside Story, about food allergy and food intolerance and, by 1995, it was a quarterly magazine circulating to over 35,000 health professionals. In 2000 The Inside Story, re-named Foods Matter, became a subscription magazine and now all of that information, and much, much more, is accessible on the Foods Matter, Coeliacs Matter and Skins Matter sites and on our two freefrom food sites, FreeFromFoodsMatter and FreeFromRecipesMatter. You can follow me on twitter @FoodsMatter or email me at michelle@foodsmatter.com And, of course, you can also follow the exciting growth of freefrom food by checking out our annual FreeFrom Food Awards celebrating the best and the newest in freefrom foods!

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