Food allergies for kids are unpleasant enough when you factor in the stress of avoiding certain foods, finding food alternatives and the possibly life-threatening allergic reactions. But child food allergies seem to be related to another difficulty—bullying.
In a recent study conducted by the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City, researchers examined the extent of bullying in kids with food allergies. A full 45 percent of these children reported being bullied or harassed for any reason, and nearly one-third of them said the bullying was specifically related to their food allergies, often including threats with food. The reasoning behind the food allergy/bullying link may be that children with food allergies are targeted for being different. As a result, these children are socially vulnerable and more likely to experience lower quality of life than kids without food allergy.
With almost 8 percent of children in the U.S. diagnosed with allergies to peanuts, tree-nuts, milk and shellfish, the bullying risk due to food allergies is a very real concern for many kids and their parents. Most of the children (71 percent) who were bullied specifically related to their food allergy did tell their parents about it, but fewer than half of those bullied for any reason did not.
Since the study finds that bullying occurs at a higher rate in children with food allergies, it’s important to pay special attention to kids with this vulnerability. “Parents and pediatricians should routinely ask children with food allergies about bullying,” wrote Eyal Shemesh, MD, associate professor of pediatrics and psychiatry at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. “Finding out about the child’s experience might allow targeted interventions, and would be expected to reduce additional stress and improve the quality of life of these children trying to manage their food allergies.”
Does your child suffer from any food allergies? If so, has he or she ever mentioned being bullied? Please tell us about it in the comments below.