Bullying and Food Allergies: A HealthCentral Explainer

ATsai Editor
  • Having food allergies can be hard on kids, as they have to be diligent about what they eat, and they can’t participate in parties or picnics in the same way as kids without allergies. This can make children  with food allergies feel like outcasts, and now research suggests that many also have to put up with bullying.


    How prevalent is bullying in kids with food allergies?

    A recent study published in the journal Pediatrics looked at 251 families with a food-allergic child in New York City and found that one-third of those kids were being bullied because of their food allergy. Researchers found that 31.5 percent of the kids surveyed said they had been bullied because of their food allergy. The most common teasing took place at school, with peers threatening to sneak the food into the food allergic child’s lunch, waving it in front of them or throw it at them.

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    Other studies have found that bullying can decrease the quality of life for kids. But if parents are aware of the bullying, that can improve the child’s quality of life. In this study, only 52.1 percent of the parents were aware of the bullying that happened. Researchers concluded that pediatricians should screen for bullying in children with food allergies to help relieve their stress.


        [SLIDESHOW: 10 Things to Know About Food Allergies in the Classroom]


    Who is doing the bullying?

    According to a 2010 study published in the Annals of Asthma, Allergy and Immunology most bullying is done by classmates, but teachers and staff are also doing a percentage of the bullying. The study surveyed 353 parents and caregivers of children with food allergies and found that 82 percent of the bullying occurred at school. In 80 percent of those cases, the bullying was started by a classmate, and another 21 percent of the cases were initiated by a teacher or a member of the school staff.


    Researchers conclude that schools need to put into place anti-harassment policies for food allergies, because otherwise kids are put in potentially dangerous situations. A severe food allergy reaction can lead to anaphylaxis and possibly death. In addition, this type of abuse leads to heightened anxiety for the child, and they lose their sense of security at school.


           [SLIDESHOW: Are You Allergic to These 10 Everyday Items?]


    How does having food allergies affect a child’s emotional health?

    Having food allergies without bullying already impacts a child’s emotional health and quality of life, according to a study presented at the 2011 Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis meeting presented by the European Academy of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (EAACI). The study looked at 107 food allergic children and their mothers and found that about 17 percent of the children never go to parties or picnics with friends, and 24 percent are forced to bring along something safe to eat. This behavior can cause loneliness and increased anxiety. In addition, 23 percent of these kids were no longer curious to try new foods to vary their diet. The necessity of carrying epinephrine at all times, in case of a life-threatening reaction, also put a damper on the child’s quality of life.


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    Why do some food allergic kids withdraw from exercise?

    In the same 2011 study presented at the EAACI meeting, researchers found that kids with food allergies refrained from exercise more frequently due to potential reactions. According to the researchers, about 5 to 15 percent of anaphylactic cases are caused by physical activity after consuming small amounts allergenic food that would otherwise be harmless. The lead researcher states that one in ten allergic children stops exercising altogether, which further diminishes quality of life.



    n.p. (2012, December 25). "Close To One-Third Of Children With Food Allergies Are Bullied." Medical News Today. Retrieved from http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/254466.php.


    Christian Nordqvist. (2010, September 29). "Bullying And Harassment Common Against Children With Food Allergies." Medical News Today. Retrieved from http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/202987.php


    Janet Epping. (2011, February 22). "Food Allergies In Children Cause Anxiety And Loneliness, Have Dramatic Impact On Their Quality Of Life." Medical News Today. Retrieved from http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/217058.php


Published On: December 28, 2012