Bullying Children With Food Allergies

Sloane Miller Health Guide
  • Did you see this recent story as reported by the Associated Press:


    "Teen accused of planting nuts in lunch of allergic classmate"


    This story is not the first that I've heard about food allergic children being tormented  by bullies, but it is still surprising. Or is it? There are always schoolyard bullies. Sometimes they are classmates and, sometimes, they are teachers.


    For the most part, I don't recall being bullied about allergies and there would have been plenty to tease me about. For example, in third grade, I developed hives on the backs on my legs after sitting on the wool rug we used for meeting. I was allowed to sit on the coveted "meeting pillows" of which there were only two. This special treatment did not endear me to my fellow third graders. Another example, in sixth grade, we were reading about the Middle Ages and the text books we were using must have been from 1592 A.D.! I couldn't physically open my book without inhaling the dust, coughing and then developing hives from touching the book and then my face. They tried to find the least dusty one for me to use but it was no use; I just wheezed through stories of monks and Robin Hood.

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    When it came time for lunch, my food allergies were low risk, relatively speaking. I don't remember anyone taunting me with a brazil nut spread sandwich or waving a piece of grilled salmon in my face, mainly because a lunchroom would never serve those items nor did children normally bring them in their lunch pails. Since I'm not allergic to peanuts, peanut butter couldn't be my kryptonite and the stories of bullying I've read have mainly been about the peanut being used as a weapon.

    Asthma was a different story entirely. I battled for years, not with other children, but with my physical education teachers. They didn't believe that my asthma was "real" and they ignored my asthma symptoms. I was forced to participate with my gym class in Central Park during the spring until I would wheeze. Only then would I be excused. Years of doctor's notes and parent's notes and scores of asthma inhalers did nothing to convince them that I had a condition exacerbated by certain exercise outdoors during allergy season. In these years, no one thought to seek legal counsel to keep me out of gym class; a doctor's note should have sufficed, but it didn't. Isn't that a form of bullying? Certainly it is willful neglect of a child's medical condition.


    Is it a sign of the times that peanut allergies have now become so commonplace and the media has done a such a great job of highlighting the very serious risks that children have now found something new to taunt other children with?

    Truly, I don't remember being bullied by other children for being allergic or asthmatic. I don't remember feeling ostracized because of asthma or allergies. I do remember knowing very well how to take care of myself: to carry my inhaler, to tell the teachers when or if I felt ill. I do remember being sick a lot and being out of school a lot, and for that there was some teasing. And of course I cannot forget Mr. O and Ms. Corcoran for being so clueless about asthma. But kids trying to put an allergenic food into my lunch? It just didn't happen.


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    What do you think? Do you have children with food allergies, asthma or environmental allergies?


    Is more attention on these issue helping or hurting your allergic child?

    Has your allergic child been bullied because of their allergies?

    Or do you have children who, like me, deal with teachers who doubt the severity of their illness?


    Read also:

    The Time is Now For Food Allergy Awareness

Published On: April 21, 2008