Boy being bullied for food allergies stock

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For the more than 5.6 million American children with potentially life-threatening food allergies, it’s hard enough to get through each day. For as many as one in three of those kids, however, life is made even harder because they’ve been bullied due to their food allergy, according to a recent study from Children’s National Hospital in Washington, D.C.  

The study surveyed about 120 children between the ages of 9 and 15 along with their parents or caregivers. All had been diagnosed with at least one of the eight most common food allergies: peanut, tree nut, cow’s milk, egg, wheat, soy, shellfish and fish. 

When asked to answer yes or no to questions about a list of victimization behaviors, 31% said they had been on the receiving end of those behaviors. The types of bullying they reported ranged from verbal teasing or criticism about their allergies to more overt physical acts, such as having their allergen waved in their faces or intentionally put in their food. A few also reported relational bullying, such as having rumors spread about them, others talking about them behind their backs, and being intentionally ignored or excluded due to their food allergies.

Importantly, the researchers also found that most parents were in the dark about their child being bullied. Only 12% of parents reported being aware of the problem.  

The Children’s National study leaders said developing methods to evaluate the extent of this type of bullying – especially in schools, where most of the behavior occurred – are critical to improving the emotional well-being of children with food allergies, a health issue that already impacts their quality of life.