A new survey published in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology seems to indicate that bullying of individuals with food allergies is more common than experts previously thought.
The study reported that out of 353 families surveyed at allergy conferences in the United States; 85 admitted that their food allergic children had been bullied. Most incidents seemed to take place in schools with 82% of the cases caused by other students. A surprising 20% of families reported their child had also been teased by teachers and school staff. Verbal taunts seemed to be the most common form of bullying.
Incidents involving younger food allergic children are often worked out within the school however in 2008, a 19 year old was suspended from school and later convicted of simple assault for smearing peanut butter on a food allergic student.
In the United States, about 4% of children under the age of 18 have some form of a food allergy. This figure has increased dramatically since 1997 with peanut allergy in children rising from .4% in 1997 to 1.4% in 2008.
“The emotional impact is a significant factor here. A child being bullied about anything has a significant emotional impact,” said Dr. Scott H. Sicherer, a professor of pediatrics at the Jaffe Food Allergy Institute of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York.
“When an adult does something, it’s even a heavier impact.”