Food Allergies Growing: Possible Causes and Treatments


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Food allergies are on the rise in developed countries and researchers are trying to discover why. According to a 2013 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, food allergies among children increased by 50 percent between 1997 and 2011.

There’s a good chance you know — or even parent — a child who has a food allergy. Dr. Ceyhun Ozturk of Little Oaks Pediatrics in Raleigh says “one in 13 children in the United States is affected by food allergies.” The prevalence of peanut allergies among children, for example, more than tripled from .4 percent to 1.4 percent between 1997 and 2008, according to a 2010 study conducted by the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.

Why are these increases occurring? Understanding the possible causes has stumped many experts.

Hypotheses

Allergy and immunology experts are unable to offer an exact cause for the increase in allergies, but have formed a few hypotheses. According to the UCLA Food and Drug Allergy Care Center, the “hygiene hypothesis” states that excessive cleanliness interrupts the normal development of the immune system, which can lead to an increase in allergies.

“In short, our ‘developed’ lifestyles have eliminated the natural variation in the types and quantity of germs our immune systems need for (them) to develop into a less allergic, better regulated state of being,” the UCLA Food and Drug Allergy Care Center website states.

Another hypothesis published in 2006 by the Adverse Reactions to Foods Committee at the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, suggests that a child’s risk of developing a food allergy is greater when the child is fed solid foods before 6 months of age. The Mayo Clinic, however, challenges this view, asserting on its Infant and Toddler Health Web page that “postponing solids — including highly allergenic foods — past 4 to 6 months of age also hasn’t been shown to prevent asthma, hay fever, eczema or food allergies.”

A recent study, however, concluded that early introduction of foods containing peanuts may decrease the development of a peanut allergy. The study, conducted at King’s College in London, included more than 600 infants ranging in age from 4 to 11 months. Each child was randomly assigned to either regularly eat or not eat foods with peanuts until they were 5 years old. The study indicated that for every 100 children, 14 would normally go on to develop an allergy by the age of 5. For children who, as infants, were introduced to foods with peanuts, that number fell by 86 percent, to just two out of every 100 children. The findings could apply to other allergies, but doctors warn not to experiment at home.

Doctors and researchers are hopeful that, based on this new evidence and more research, early introduction of foods can help curb food allergies, and new protocols will follow.

Identification

The first step to solving this mystery is to understand what is going on during an allergic reaction.

“Food allergy basically occurs when your immune system inappropriately forms allergic antibodies to foods someone has been exposed to during their life,” says Dr. Joel Hartman of Allergy Partners of the Piedmont.

This struggle usually arises during a child’s first and second year of life and often manifests as an allergy to milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, soy, fish and/or shellfish.

“Milk is tough, especially if kids are reactive to milk in baked goods, so families have to be diligent about label-reading, because milk, soy, wheat and egg can be hidden in a lot of foods,” says Dr. Emily Langley of Carolina Asthma & Allergy Center, which has locations throughout the Charlotte area.

Parents of allergic children should ask questions at restaurants if they are unclear on what entrees contain, and should keep an eye on their allergic child if he or she does eat something he or she is allergic to, since the reaction may not appear immediately. “Typically food allergy presents within 20 to 30 minutes if not immediately after you eat a food, and a kid will develop hives or a rash around (his) face, chest or all over his body; may experience swelling of the lips or tongue; may start coughing, wheezing, having difficulty breathing; or have nausea, vomiting and diarrhea,” Langley says.

Identification is not always straightforward. “It can overlap with a lot of other conditions like food sensitivities, gastrointestinal illnesses, viral illnesses or food intolerances, so it can be difficult to discern if it is an allergy or another medical illness going on,” Langley adds.

Confirmation

To confirm a food allergy, see a doctor. “We take history and decide the best way to test, but the only absolute way to make certain you do not have a food allergy is for the allergist to perform what is called an open food challenge in the office, where the patient brings the food to the office and over a period of an hour or two we introduce small amounts, increasing (the amount) over that time,” Hartman says. This helps rule allergies out.

Based on the clinical reaction, doctors may choose to run a skin test, which involves pricking the skin with an extract of the allergenic protein and looking for what is called a “wheel and flare response,” which is the appearance of a small hive or mosquito bite at the site of the skin prick, Langley says. Or, doctors may choose to run a blood test called a RAST (radioallergosorbent test), she says, which helps identify allergy antibodies to a certain food.

Guidelines

Ozturk says in 2000, the American Academy of Pediatrics advised delaying the introduction of highly allergenic foods to high-risk infants. This meant delaying the introduction of cow’s milk until age 1; egg until age 2; and fish, peanuts and tree nuts until age 3.

More recent guidelines are less stringent but still unspecific.

“(The AAP) determined in 2008 that there was no convincing evidence for delaying the introduction of highly allergenic foods, but the report did not provide guidelines on how and when to introduce them, so it is still a highly debated topic among pediatricians and allergists,” Ozturk says. “The medical community is split on the issues, but there are good proponents to delay allergenic foods, but also proponents for introducing them as early as 4 to 6 months — except cow’s milk, because consuming high amounts of cow’s milk before 12 months makes you run the risk of developing low hemoglobin or anemia.”

Some factors are out of parental control. “Kids most at risk have a family history like a parent or sibling with an allergic condition — whether it is asthma, food allergy, eczema or environmental allergies,” Langley says.

Nobody said managing food allergies would be easy.

“It is a life-threatening condition and also a change in lifestyle for an entire family,” Langley says.

Treatment

In an effort to treat food allergies, several universities across the U.S. are performing desensitization clinical trials.

A clinical trial being conducted at Stanford University combines a shot of the drug Xolair with slowly increasing exposure to the foods that a patient is sensitive to. So far, 700 participants in the clinical trials have developed the ability to eat foods that previously triggered an allergic reaction. The treatment begins with a series of injections to lower the patient’s immune response. Slow and low exposure to the allergen follows and then researchers increase the “dose” of the allergy-causing food over the course of up to a year.

“I am hopeful that over the next decade that we may have something to offer families other than just avoidance and treatment of acute situations,” Langley says.


Tips for Treating Allergic Reactions

1. Be prepared. For severe allergic reactions, an epinephrine injection may be necessary. “It is important to seek emergency care and call 911 after you inject epinephrine, because you may feel better, but once the medication gets out of your system you may experience subsequent reactions and should be observed for 4 to 5 hours and monitored closely with vital signs,” says Dr. Ceyhun Ozturk of Little Oaks Pediatrics in Raleigh.

2. Educate. Help the people who help take care of your child read labels and understand your child’s routine. “The Food and Drug Administration back in 2004 passed an act that required all packaged foods with few exceptions to list the common allergens that may be contained in the food that is being sold,” says Dr. Joel Hartman of Allergy Partners of the Piedmont. “This was helpful.”

3. Treat appropriately. “If a child develops hives only, it would be safe to administer an appropriate dose of Benadryl, monitor him and call the primary care doctor,” says Dr. Emily Langley of Carolina Asthma and Allergy, which has locations throughout the Charlotte area. “But if symptoms are more severe — like the child is breathing hard or fast, vomiting or you perceive the throat is getting tight — you should call 911 immediately.”

4. Track growth. “In the process of eliminating allergens, parents are sometimes overly careful and there could be nutritional deficiencies, so we have to keep a close eye on the growth chart to make sure height and weight are normal for their age,” Ozturk says.

Jamie Lober, author of “Pink Power,” has a passion for health promotion and disease prevention. Contact her at jamie@getpinkpower.com.

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November 2019

Our seventh annual food drive will be held during the month of November. All donations benefit the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina (www.foodbankcenc.org). We encourage you to get...

Cost: FREE. Registration is not required.

Where:
Crowder County Park
4709 Ten-Ten Rd
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Telephone: 919-662-2850
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Sponsor: Lake Crabtree County Park
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Historic Yates Mill County Park
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Telephone: 919-856-6675
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We will be conducting a food drive during the month of November. All donations benefit the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina (www.foodbankcenc.org). We encourage you to get involved...

Cost: FREE. Registration is not required.

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Our seventh annual food drive will be held during the month of November. All donations benefit the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina (www.foodbankcenc.org). We encourage you to get...

Cost: FREE. Registration is not required.

Where:
Crowder County Park
4709 Ten-Ten Rd
Apex, NC  27529
View map »


Telephone: 919-662-2850
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More information

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Cost: $29/person

Where:
Whole Brain Escape
410 Upchurch St
Apex, NC  27502
View map »


Sponsor: Whole Brain Escape
Telephone: (919)355-2714
Contact Name: Heather Chandler
Website »

More information

Discover Historic Yates Mill – a place of business, community, and exciting local history! Watch a brief slideshow, then explore the inner workings of the mill itself and witness the power of...

Cost: $5/Adult, $4/Senior (60+ yrs), $3/Child (7-16yrs), Free/Child (6yrs & younger)

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
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View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

We will be conducting a food drive during the month of November. All donations benefit the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina (www.foodbankcenc.org). We encourage you to get involved...

Cost: FREE. Registration is not required.

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Our seventh annual food drive will be held during the month of November. All donations benefit the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina (www.foodbankcenc.org). We encourage you to get...

Cost: FREE. Registration is not required.

Where:
Crowder County Park
4709 Ten-Ten Rd
Apex, NC  27529
View map »


Telephone: 919-662-2850
Website »

More information

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Crowder County Park
4709 Ten-Ten Rd
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View map »


Telephone: 919-662-2850

More information

Whole Brain Escape, the Triangle’s newest escape room, is debuting its 4th room! Located in Apex, Whole Brain Escape is excited to unveil The Curse of Dr. Conundrum on Friday, November 8th....

Cost: $29/person

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Whole Brain Escape
410 Upchurch St
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Sponsor: Whole Brain Escape
Telephone: (919)355-2714
Contact Name: Heather Chandler
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Cost: FREE

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Sponsor: Lake Crabtree County Park
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Cost: FREE. Registration is not required.

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Our seventh annual food drive will be held during the month of November. All donations benefit the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina (www.foodbankcenc.org). We encourage you to get...

Cost: FREE. Registration is not required.

Where:
Crowder County Park
4709 Ten-Ten Rd
Apex, NC  27529
View map »


Telephone: 919-662-2850
Website »

More information

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Cost: $29/person

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Whole Brain Escape
410 Upchurch St
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Sponsor: Whole Brain Escape
Telephone: (919)355-2714
Contact Name: Heather Chandler
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Show Less...

We will be conducting a food drive during the month of November. All donations benefit the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina (www.foodbankcenc.org). We encourage you to get involved...

Cost: FREE. Registration is not required.

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Our seventh annual food drive will be held during the month of November. All donations benefit the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina (www.foodbankcenc.org). We encourage you to get...

Cost: FREE. Registration is not required.

Where:
Crowder County Park
4709 Ten-Ten Rd
Apex, NC  27529
View map »


Telephone: 919-662-2850
Website »

More information

Ages 1-5 and caregiver delight in the discoveries of nature. Register online. 

Cost: $8/resident, $10/nonresident

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Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
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View map »


Telephone: 919-387-5980
Website »

More information

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Cost: $29/person

Where:
Whole Brain Escape
410 Upchurch St
Apex, NC  27502
View map »


Sponsor: Whole Brain Escape
Telephone: (919)355-2714
Contact Name: Heather Chandler
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Cost: Free

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Hillsborough Main Library
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Sponsor: Orange County Library
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Cost: $25-$45/person

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McKimmon Center
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Cost: Free

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137 W Margaret Ln
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Sponsor: Orange County Public Library
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Contact Name: Libbie Hough
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See horses compete and enjoy food trucks, children's activities and more. Admission is free; Saturday evening Grand Prix tickets are $10/person. Proceeds benefit Duke Children's...

Cost: Free

Where:
Gov. James B. Hunt Horse Complex
4601 Trinity Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27607
View map »


Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

We will be conducting a food drive during the month of November. All donations benefit the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina (www.foodbankcenc.org). We encourage you to get involved...

Cost: FREE. Registration is not required.

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Our seventh annual food drive will be held during the month of November. All donations benefit the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina (www.foodbankcenc.org). We encourage you to get...

Cost: FREE. Registration is not required.

Where:
Crowder County Park
4709 Ten-Ten Rd
Apex, NC  27529
View map »


Telephone: 919-662-2850
Website »

More information

When Possum sees the full harvest moon, he decides to throw one last party before the long winter. But everyone is too busy preparing for winter and it looks as if nobody will come to Possum's...

Cost: FREE. Registration is required.

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Discover all things sweet potato at the State Farmers Market. 

Cost: Free

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State Farmers Market
1201 Agriculture St.
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Website »

More information

Whole Brain Escape, the Triangle’s newest escape room, is debuting its 4th room! Located in Apex, Whole Brain Escape is excited to unveil The Curse of Dr. Conundrum on Friday, November 8th....

Cost: $29/person

Where:
Whole Brain Escape
410 Upchurch St
Apex, NC  27502
View map »


Sponsor: Whole Brain Escape
Telephone: (919)355-2714
Contact Name: Heather Chandler
Website »

More information

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View map »


Sponsor: Read and Feed
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More information

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Cost: Free

Where:
Gov. James B. Hunt Horse Complex
4601 Trinity Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27607
View map »


Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

We will be conducting a food drive during the month of November. All donations benefit the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina (www.foodbankcenc.org). We encourage you to get involved...

Cost: FREE. Registration is not required.

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Our seventh annual food drive will be held during the month of November. All donations benefit the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina (www.foodbankcenc.org). We encourage you to get...

Cost: FREE. Registration is not required.

Where:
Crowder County Park
4709 Ten-Ten Rd
Apex, NC  27529
View map »


Telephone: 919-662-2850
Website »

More information

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Cost: Free

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Baileywick Road Park
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View map »


Sponsor: Raleigh Redhawks Rugby
Contact Name: denise travis
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More information

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Cost: Registration is not required.

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

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Cost: $5/Adult, $4/Senior (60+ yrs), $3/Child (7-16yrs), Free/Child (6yrs & younger)

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

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View map »


Website »

More information

Ages 1-5 and caregiver delight in the discoveries of nature. Register online. 

Cost: $8/resident, $10/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC
View map »


Telephone: 919-387-5980
Website »

More information

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Cost: Free

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Halle Cultural Arts Center
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View map »


Website »

More information

November Story Time, Puppet Show and Art Activity Puppet Show Incorporated https://www.puppetshowinc.org/ presents the classic folk story Stone Soup. Activities include a story time, puppet show...

Cost: Free

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900 Old Fayetteville Road
Inside McDougle Middle School
Chapel Hill, NC  27516
View map »


Sponsor: Orange County Library
Telephone: 919-969-3006
Contact Name: Beth Hawkey
Website »

More information

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Cost: FREE. Registration is not required.

Where:
Crowder County Park
4709 Ten-Ten Rd
Apex, NC  27529
View map »


Telephone: 919-662-2850
Website »

More information

Whole Brain Escape, the Triangle’s newest escape room, is debuting its 4th room! Located in Apex, Whole Brain Escape is excited to unveil The Curse of Dr. Conundrum on Friday, November 8th....

Cost: $29/person

Where:
Whole Brain Escape
410 Upchurch St
Apex, NC  27502
View map »


Sponsor: Whole Brain Escape
Telephone: (919)355-2714
Contact Name: Heather Chandler
Website »

More information

Step back in time with our 19th-century costumed interpreters and watch the millstones at work grinding corn into meal. Tour fee: $5/Adult, $4/Senior (ages 60 & over), $3/Child (ages 7-16),...

Cost: $5/Adult, $4/Senior (60+ yrs), $3/Child (7-16yrs), Free/Child (6yrs & younger)

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Telephone: 919-856-6675
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During harvest time, farmers often helped their neighbors to get hard work done during communal gatherings such as corn shucking. Learn about this fall tradition and make a corn husk doll to take...

Cost: FREE. Registration is not required.

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Telephone: 919-856-6675
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Usher in the holidays with a tree-lighting ceremony at 5:30 p.m. Carolers, a visit from Santa, a dance scene from the Nutcracker, special performances from local schools, and dozens of...

Cost: Free

Where:
Lafayette Village
8450 Honeycutt Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27615
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All evening and into the night, 3000 pounds of molten iron will be poured into molds, in an exciting fiery display. Additionally, there will be Liberty Arts artists’ work for sale, scratch...

Cost: Free

Where:
Durham Central Park
501 Foster St.
Durham, NC  27701
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Discover what's happening as the sun sets and listen to stories around a campfire. All ages with adult. Register online. Choose course #127674.

Cost: $18/resident, $24/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC
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Telephone: 919-387-5980
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East Cloud Kungfu hosts a Parent's Night Out event, featuring a safe environment for kids as they about the wide world of kungfu.   Check it out!...

Cost: $25 first child, $20 each additional child

Where:
East Cloud Kungfu, LLC
5655-A Western Blvd
Raleigh, NC  27606
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Sponsor: East Cloud Kungfu, LLC
Telephone: 252-646-7053
Contact Name: Imari Colon
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Join the Studio School of Durham team to sip, tinker, and create on Saturday, November 16th at 7:00pm for this FREE event!  We will provide the food, wine, beer, and non-alcoholic...

Cost: Free

Where:
The Studio School of Durham
1201 W Woodcroft Pkwy
Durham, NC  27713
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Sponsor: The Studio School of Durham
Telephone: 984-377-4502
Contact Name: Danielle Sunde
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The EWFL carries a unique experience in youth football to play in a “big game” atmosphere.  Our games begin in the afternoons on Saturday and play into the evening “under the...

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Durham County Stadium
750 Stadium Dr
Durham, NC  27704
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See horses compete and enjoy food trucks, children's activities and more. Admission is free; Saturday evening Grand Prix tickets are $10/person. Proceeds benefit Duke Children's...

Cost: Free

Where:
Gov. James B. Hunt Horse Complex
4601 Trinity Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27607
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Annual Guides

Education Guide

The 2019-20 Education Guide offers 718 education resources in the Triangle, including area preschools, private schools, public school systems, charter schools, boarding schools and academic resources.

The Triangle Go-To Guide

Our Triangle Go-To Guide connects you to family fun resources across the Triangle. In our 2019-20 issue, explore 1,028 resources for family fun.