Imagine a child with a life-threatening peanut allergy being chased around the playground by a bully brandishing a peanut butter sandwich. It’s more common than you think.
According to a Mount Sinai study, 1 in 3 kids with food allergies are bullied, taunted, and even physically threatened at school.
In the study of 251 children and their parents, 45 percent of children with food allergies reported being bullied, and 31 per cent said the bullying included threats with the source of their allergy. Many were forced to touch the food — or had it thrown at them.
Being bullied made the children feel stressed out and reduced their quality of life far more than the food allergies themselves. But the study also found that nearly half the parents in the study didn’t realize their child was being bullied. In the cases where the parents were aware of the bullying, the child was happier.
The study also explored how kids aren’t the only bullies. Often children with allergies are upset by adults who don’t understand their situation — singled out and made to feel badly because they can’t eat a certain food.
About 1 in 13 children in the U.S. has a food allergy, which works out to roughly two children in every classroom.
Food allergies are no joke. Here’s a great video from FARE (Food Allergy Research & Education) about their “It’s Not a Joke” campaign, and here are a few tips on preventing and addressing food allergy bullying:
- Educate your kids on what bullying is and what to do if they — or a friend or classmate — are bullied. Make sure they know they can tell you about it.
- Show your kids the proper way to stand up to a bully, like saying “Leave me alone!” with confidence, or just walking away.
- Recognize the signs of bullying, which include torn clothing or damaged items, unexplained reactions or injuries, avoiding school, headaches or stomachaches, social isolation, or behavior changes
- Encourage your child to stay with a group of trusted friends in the situations where they are bullied, like the cafeteria or walking to and from school.
- If your child is being bullied, calmly assure them you are going to help — and speak directly with the school’s teachers and/or administrators
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