Allercy and Asthma Health
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The Official Publication of AAN - MA

Food Allergies Put Kids at Risk for Bullying

It’s bad enough for kids to have to deal with food allergies, but now new research suggests these children often have to deal with bullying as well.

In the first study to ever look into the problem, investigators from the Jaffe Food Allergy Institute at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York found about 35% of children with food allergies reported being bullied or harassed because of their allergy, and among that number, 86% reported repeated episodes.

Classmates were most often identified as the bullies, but disturbingly, adults frequently took part as well. Overall, about 20% of the kids reported being teased or harassed about their food allergy by teachers or other school staff.

In most of the cases found in the study, bullying took the form of verbal abuse, but more than 40% of the respondents reported being threatened physically as well, such as having the allergen waved in their face or thrown at them. While no child reported an allergic reaction due to the attacks, 65% did report feeling depressed and embarrassed by the bullying.

The authors believe these findings call for schools to actively address the bullying of food-allergic children. “Educators should develop anti-harassment policies related to food allergy,” notes study co-author Christopher Weiss, PhD, a vice president at the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN). “The public needs to understand this behavior is unacceptable.”

Fellow author Scott H. Sicherer, MD, professor of pediatrics at Mount Sinai, agrees. “Considering the seriousness of food allergy, these unwanted behaviors risk not only adverse emotional outcomes, but physical risks as well. It is clear that efforts to rectify this issue must address a better understanding of food allergies as well as strict no-bullying programs in schools.”

The study involved a survey of 353 parents and caregivers of kids with food allergies, along with food-allergic patients themselves, who were questioned at FAAN meetings held in Tarrytown, NY, Rosemont, IL, and Baltimore, MD, in 2009.

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