Food Allergy Bullying: What Parents Need to Know
It’s a scene that’s all too familiar in American schools: Bullies taunting and even physically attacking their victims. Bullies tend to target children who are different from their peers. This means that kids with peanut allergies and other food allergies may be at risk. In fact, experts suggest that as many as one-third of kids with food allergies experience some form of bullying. If your child has been diagnosed with a food allergy, here’s what you need to know to protect him or her.
Types of Bullying
Bullying can take several forms, and may be perpetrated by fellow students or teachers and staff. The most common form is verbal harassment, in which students with allergies are teased or taunted about their medical condition. Some students report being harassed about having to carry auto-injectors of epinephrine with them. Some bullies may even question whether the child has a real medical condition. Verbal harassment is highly damaging to a child’s self-esteem. Physical bullying can also occur, in which students may be confronted by their allergen. One student reported having peanut butter forcibly smeared on the forehead. Another found peanut butter cookie crumbs in her lunchbox.
Signs of Bullying
Children who are being bullied may become fearful of going to school. If they’re being bullied in a specific class, they may make repeated trips to the nurse’s office, feigning illness to get out of that class. Students might not want to ride the bus, suddenly start getting poor grades, drop out of after-school activities, or have unexplained injuries. Talk to your child if you notice any changes in behavior, emotional health, or personality.
Steps to Take
The first step is to encourage your child to talk freely about the incidents. The more you know about exactly what’s going on, the better you’ll be able to help your child. Tell your child what to do if bullying occurs. Then, set up a meeting with school administrators to discuss the problem and demand that action be taken. It may be necessary to ask your child’s allergy specialist to meet with school staff and/or students to explain that food allergies are life-threatening and must be taken seriously by the entire community.
The compassionate, board-certified allergy specialists at Allergy & Asthma SpecialistsSM work with patients of all ages to help them understand their diagnosis and manage it effectively. We pride ourselves on our accessible approach to patient education, and we firmly believe that patient education can empower children and adults to live life well despite food allergies. Call 1(800)86-COUGH to get help from an allergy specialist in Blue Bell, Lansdale, Philadelphia, Jenkintown, Pottstown, Doylestown, King of Prussia, or Collegeville, Pennsylvania.