Approximately one third of children suffering from food allergies have reported being bullied because of their condition.
Many people, particularly young children, do not understand the potential severity of a food allergy. The special treatment that sufferers receive at schools – separate tables, schoolwide reminders, and more – can serve to single out these individuals, making them the target of ridicule.
Nationwide, reported instances of food allergy bullying have included children being teased because of the medicine they have to carry, while so-called practical jokes – such as taunting a sufferer with the food item in question – have quickly turned deadly. In some cases, bullies have moved beyond waving or shoving an allergen in someone’s face, to the deliberate – and life-threatening – contamination of an allergy sufferer’s food.
When piled on top of the already extreme responsibility faced by children with food allergies, these offenses not only harbor the potential for physical harm, but routinely result in anxiety, depression, isolation, hesitance or refusal to go to school, and even suicidal thoughts or attempts.
Sadly, bullying is far from limited to a child’s peers. Sometimes, adults make light of the situation, too.
UNDERSTANDING FOOD ALLERGIES
As with other allergies, a food allergy happens when the body’s immune system overacts to a harmless food protein. In some cases, mere physical contact or inhalation of the food item is enough to trigger a reaction.
Mild to moderate reactions can include hives, nausea, congestion, cough, and itchiness. Severe reactions can include trouble breathing, loss of consciousness, and anaphylactic shock. The latter condition is potentially fatal.
Some additional statistics:
- Food allergies affect up to 15 million Americans, and approximately 5.9 million children (that’s almost two kids in every classroom in America).
- Every three minutes, someone is sent to the hospital as a result of this condition.
- There is no cure; only avoidance of the problem food.
- Epinephrine Auto Injectors, or Epi-Pens, are carried by sufferers to stop anaphylaxis.
- Genetics play a role, as well as prior history. People with other allergies, including hay fever and eczema, are more likely to develop food allergies.
- Some people are allergic to more than one food. The most common allergies, however, are related to:
Most parents worry about keeping their children safe from vehicular accidents, natural disasters, stranger danger, and other common worries and fears.
Parents of children with food allergies face these concerns, too. Meanwhile, they are constantly struggling, stressing, and battling throughout an exhaustive process of protecting their children from what is essentially the smallest of offenses – a peanut or a pineapple wedge.
Obviously, it’s no laughing matter.
And with food allergy bullying reportedly on the rise, vigilance has never been more important.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
Parental intervention, when assisted by school personnel, has been shown to be one of the most successful steps in combatting food allergy bullying. If your child has a food allergy, and he or she has complained of bullying, consult your school administrators ASAP.
The American Academy of Pediatrics strongly urges parents to speak to their children about bullying, conflict resolution, and the importance of respect and compassion when interacting with children who have food allergies.
Communicate with teachers, coaches, counselors, and physicians on a regular basis in regards to your child’s allergies. Support is critical in making schools safer for children.
If you believe your child may suffer from a food allergy, KinderMender can provide a diagnosis via an in-depth evaluation of symptoms, a physical exam, and possibly skin and/or blood tests. Depending on the condition’s severity, we can refer your child to an allergist if skin test or allergy shots are indicated. Call or stop by today.