Family Matters

Bullying over Food Allergies

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Kids can be cruel to one another for all sorts of reasons. Children who are too fat or too thin or those who have few friends are commonly targeted by schoolyard bullies, but new research finds that children with food allergies are also vulnerable. Nearly half of kids with food allergies say they’ve been bullied, and a third report that the bullying was food-related. In the most concerning cases, the kids said they were taunted by other kids who stuffed allergens into their mouth or threw food at them.

“These were acts that could actually be life-threatening,” says Dr. Eyal Shemesh, lead author and an associate professor of pediatrics and psychiatry at Mount Sinai Medical Center. “Even if it’s limited to teasing, that is still upsetting. If you are allergic and someone threatens to stuff a peanut in your mouth, they only need to do it once for you to be afraid.”

Shemesh and colleagues looked at 251 children ages 8 to 17 who went to Mount Sinai’s allergy clinic with a parent. Both children and parents answered detailed questions about bullying.

Not surprisingly, bullying was associated with more distress and dissatisfaction with life. Only about half the parents said they knew that their child had been bullied, but when parents were aware, children were not as miserable.

(MORE: Why Kids with Known Food Allergies Are Still at Risk)

“It could be that just the fact that you have someone who knows about it and supports you can help,” says Shemesh. “Or the parents may do something about it, which makes the child feel stronger.”

Parents of children with food allergies should regularly ask whether anyone is giving them a hard time about their allergy; doctors should inquire too. And schools should be vigilant as well.

Children with food allergies don’t look physically sick, so some people tend to dismiss the severity of their health concerns. “With cancer, people feel bad and want to protect them,” says Shemesh. “With food allergies, we see people look at a child and they look fine, so they dismiss the threat and figure the parents may be being too overprotective. That doesn’t happen with other illnesses. They are between a rock and a hard place in way that is not true for other medical illnesses.”

As many as 8% of U.S. kids have diagnosed food allergies, according to the study published Monday in the journal Pediatrics, making it likely that your child either has an allergy or has a classmate who does. Classrooms regularly ban tree nuts or eggs or dairy from shared school snacks because of myriad allergies. “It’s much more acceptable nowadays,” says Shemesh. “But these kids have a vulnerability that can be exploited. If someone wants to threaten them, they know how.”

MORE: Food Allergy Affects 1 in 12 American Kids, More Common in Minorities

30 comments
sowonderful
sowonderful

@TIMEHealthland just curious, why do you send out tweets about some articles twice a day with varying descriptions?

Mongolian.W
Mongolian.W

Hey guys im Mongolian. i think our nationality like the Time


monicawharton
monicawharton

@TIMEHealthland When children have allergies they react to them; often misconstrued as bad behaviors but food, environmental issues

ape_man
ape_man

@TIME @TIMEHealthland Is that what we're supposed to do now? Suppose one day they're forced to grow up and live in the real world?

jbs902
jbs902

@natamcmullin Hahah remember that time you bullied me with the carton of milk!

MinnaKrist
MinnaKrist

@TIME @timehealthland And it won't stop even when getting older. Only the ways change... :-( #knowledge #noncurable #formylife

EuGabix
EuGabix

@TIME @TIMEHealthland Allergies come from ANIMAL MILK + DAIRY + MEAT!! http://t.co/UtDsbflL (Milk=poison=allergies) + http://t.co/HP7MsNiX

Marsupilamaki
Marsupilamaki

@EuGabix @time @timehealthland oh come on! There is a treatment for paranoia. :). Too much of everything is bad.

EuGabix
EuGabix

@Marsupilamaki @time @timehealthland Too much of everything is bad, and even a small portion of dairy + meat is HIGHLY allergenic

Marsupilamaki
Marsupilamaki

@EuGabix when men has exaggerated his own life and meaning of existence he starts to project this feeling to the animals.

Marsupilamaki
Marsupilamaki

@EuGabix anything you cannot grow yourself is unhealthy. Think about the the circle of life. Death is inevitable.

Marsupilamaki
Marsupilamaki

@EuGabix we have also plants at home that are edible but we choose not to eat them but use them as decoration.some can be nutrition though

Marsupilamaki
Marsupilamaki

@EuGabix do you think people in the old days liked to kill their animals?Little cute lambs. They had no choice and respected life

Marsupilamaki
Marsupilamaki

@EuGabix you don't eat your pet because you are raised that way. There are many cultures who eat cats and dogs too. Pets can be food too

EuGabix
EuGabix

@Marsupilamaki It doesnt matter...I can grow my pet; and if I dont eat my pet ...Y would I ever eat any other animal?

Marsupilamaki
Marsupilamaki

@EuGabix @time @timehealthland well it is. Grow the animals yourself. Do you know how to grow a chicken or rabbit?

EuGabix
EuGabix

@Marsupilamaki @time @timehealthland Oh, don´t tell this is possible...that organic thing with animals

Marsupilamaki
Marsupilamaki

@EuGabix @time @timehealthland using antibiotics is one topic. Eating meat is another. There is also meat and diary without antibiotics.

Marsupilamaki
Marsupilamaki

@EuGabix @time @timehealthland I can see the logic though. Nevertheless I would be more precarious making simplistic statements.

Marsupilamaki
Marsupilamaki

@EuGabix @time @timehealthland This is an hypothesis but not proven yet?) So don't state it as a truth. It's your opinion.

EuGabix
EuGabix

@Marsupilamaki @time @timehealthland One of the main causes, if not THE sole cause, of antibiotics resistance is meat + dairy

Marsupilamaki
Marsupilamaki

@EuGabix @time @timehealthland it CAN be that does not mean it is for everybody.Of course introduction of meat and diary must be timed right

paulinaoberg
paulinaoberg

@TIMEHealthland #FoodAllergies #HistamineIntolerance #HI #Bullying the weak, new? Allergies affect #mood #cognition #socialization #health

rachelcw
rachelcw

@TIMEHealthland I don't suspect this is new, kids were always bullied for allergies, there just seem to me more of them/more outspoken

omaxcare.com
omaxcare.com

Kids with food allergies grow up to be strong independent and self confident. All but 5 US states have passed the "self carry epinephrine" legislation. We need to ensure our food allergic kids are carrying their Epipens on them. . All kids should be self carrying the epinephrines asap, especially when entering middle school where bullying is more common. There are some discreet concealed leg holsters and undergarment belts for carrying their Epipens that will not make them stand out and will help keep them safe in case of an emergency.

By: Marlena Delgado Coen

vegankat70
vegankat70

Sorry, due to a typo, I started my previous post with I instead of It. Sorry for any confusion.

vegankat70
vegankat70

I doesn't stop just because you grow up. I'm lactose intolerant. My boss made a huge fuss and even put it in my performance appraisal because I refused to eat pizza at the holiday party. I wish people like this could have just one day cramped up and in pain like I've been after being exposed to dairy products.

SwiftrightRight
SwiftrightRight

Its largely because you have so many people who are truly ignorant as to what food allergies are. So many people think food allergies equal a stuffy noses and sniffles, something to "man up" and "work through" I have seen a few kids in the ER who were exposed to peanuts and nearly died from anaphylactic shock because a parent didn't think the local school's peanut ban was a big deal. There is also a problem with calling any intolerance an "allergy" Some people  are lactose intolerant will get awfully sick from lactose in milk products. And then there are people with milk allergies who will die from exposure to milk proteins 

If a kid has a serious allergy you might as well treat the allergen as you would a loaded gun because with out prompt medical treatment that red food #5 allergy WILL result in a fatality