Nut-allergy sufferers face prejudice

A new study from the University of Leicester, the London School of Economics and Political Science and the Children’s Allergy Clinic at University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust has found that nut allergy sufferers and their parents encounter high levels of prejudice, hostility and scepticism. Nut allergy is potentially deadly, if not treated in time. The researchers interviewed 26 families about the strategies they used to cope in various situations, and discovered that may are made to feel that their child’s nut allergy is a frivolous and self indulgent fad. Children interviewed testified to bullying in the classroom from other children taunting them about approaching them nuts. The researchers also found that families have to deal with unhelpful food labelling.

Taking precautions in the home such as creating nut-free environments were manageable, but trying to involve others in keeping their child safe proved very difficult, and provoked disbelief and complete lack of care. Some parents even suspected their children had been fed nuts on purpose just to test whether the allergy was real. This behaviour puts the nut-allergic child in danger, given that the symptoms of nut allergy are life-threatening and often have to be treated in hospital.

Consultant Dr David Luyt who was involved in the study calls for better public education about the dangers of nut allergy, clearer food labelling and improved food production techniques. In many ways, nut allergy may be considered a form of disability, because it imposes social barriers on participating fully in society.

Source: University of Leicester

First published in August 2011

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