Children With Food Allergies May Face More Bullying

Most events occur at school, involve classmates; teachers reported as perpetrators in some cases
By Lindsey Marcellin
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, Oct. 21 (HealthDay News) -- Children and teens with food allergies are at increased risk of bullying and harassment, according to a report published in the October issue of the Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.

Jay A. Lieberman, M.D., of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City, and colleagues conducted a survey of 353 food-allergic teens and adults and parents of food-allergic children to determine the prevalence and characteristics of bullying, teasing, and harassment of food-allergic patients.

The researchers found that, for the combined age groups, 24 percent of respondents reported that the food-allergic individual had experienced food-allergy-related bullying, teasing, or harassment. The majority of these episodes occurred at school and involved classmates, but 21 percent of victims reported the perpetrators to be teachers or school staff members. The bullied individuals described 57 percent of episodes as involving intentionally being touched with the allergen or having the allergen-containing food thrown at or waved in front of them, and several reported intentional contamination of their food with the allergen.

"We found that bullying, teasing, or harassment of food-allergic individuals is common, possibly double the rate noted in the general population, and perpetrators sometimes include adults. These actions pose a risk of psychological harm in all people, but unique to this population is that bullying, teasing, or harassment can also pose a direct physical threat when the allergen is involved," the authors write.

Three of the study authors have been or are currently affiliated with the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network.

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