October 12, 2010 in Features

Kids with food allergies may be target of bullies

Survey: 24 percent of participants say they have been harassed
Jeannine Stein Los Angeles Times
 

As if kids with food allergies didn’t have enough to deal with at school, now they may have to worry about being bullied. A study finds that some children who have food allergies could be the target of bullies – and some of those bullies could be the teachers.

A new report in the journal Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology finds that about one-quarter of children surveyed said they were bullied because of their food allergies. Researchers gave surveys to 353 children and teens with food allergies; the vast majority were completed by parents.

The survey revealed that about 24 percent of the participants had been bullied, teased or harassed because of their allergies. About 86 percent of this group said they had been harassed more than once and that it occurred most often at school. (Most children reported having multiple food allergies, but peanut allergies were most common.)

When asked why they were bullied, about 79 percent said it was because of the food allergy and the rest thought they were bothered because of a number of related issues, including having to carry medication, being set apart at mealtimes and getting special treatment.

Among those who had been bullied, about 44 percent said that the food they were allergic to had been waved in their face. However, none of the participants reported having an allergic reaction as a result of being bullied.

Most of the bullies were classmates, but about 18 participants said a teacher or other school staff member had done the teasing.

Emotional issues were one fallout, with some children saying they felt depressed, embarrassed and humiliated because of the teasing.

In the study, the authors wrote, “These actions pose a risk of psychological harm in all people, but unique to this population is that bullying, teasing, or harassment can also pose a direct physical threat when the allergen is involved.”

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