First study of its kind finds children with food allergies are often victims of bullying

A study led by Scott H. Sicherer, MD, Professor of Paediatrics, Jaffe Food Allergy Institute at Mount Sinai School of Medicine found that more than 30% of children are reporting to have been bullied or harassed because of their food allergies. Researchers collated data from parents and caregivers of children with food allergies. After analysis, more than 43% reported having had their specific allergen waved in their faces and 64% experienced verbal teasing.

Dr Sicherer says, ”We know that food allergy in children affects quality of life and causes issues like anxiety, depression, and stress for them and their parents. However, our study is the first to explore teasing, harassment and bullying behaviours aimed at these children. The results are disturbing, as they show that children not only have to struggle with managing their food allergies, but also commonly bear harassment from their peers."

The study found that it was not only peers who teased food-allergic school children, but their teachers as well. Some children reported finding particles of allergens in their lunch boxes or having the allergen, such as peanut butter, smeared across their faces, a frightening prospect for someone who sufferers from anaphylaxis to a particular allergen.

Christopher Weiss, PhD, study co-author and vice president, advocacy and government relations of FAAN (the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network) says, "Bullying, whether physical or verbal is abusive behavior that can have a tremendous impact on a child's emotional well-being."

FAAN encourages support through the peer education programme, Be a PAL: Protect a Life From Food Allergies, designed to help parents and teachers to educate students about food allergies, and how to help their friends who suffer from them. The program teaches children from a young age that food allergies are serious and life threatening, and not to be taken lightly.

The study was published this month in Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, the scientific journal of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI)

First published in September 2010


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