LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - As many as 1 in 13 children in the US have food allergies, many of them with potential life-threatening reactions. And a new survey suggests some of those children are bullied, teased or harassed because of a food allergy, according to a recent survey.
Dr. Gerald Lee, of UofL Physicians Allergy and Immunology says children who are bullied because of food allergies must deal with the emotional toll of bullying as well as the need to keep up with their medical needs.
Examples of Bullying:
· A middle school student found peanut butter cookie crumbs in her lunchbox.
· A high school student's forehead was smeared with peanut butter.
A recent survey found the frequency of food bullying happens more often than people might think:
· 86% of those who reported bullying reported multiple episodes, with verbal abuse the most common form.
· 57 percent reported being touched or harassed by the actual food allergen.
· 82 percent occurred at school, 80 percent among classmates.
· 21 percent reported teachers or school staff as perpetrators.
· 79 percent said harassment was related to food allergy; others reported harassment for having to carry medication for their allergy.
What Can Parents Do?
Dr. Lee suggests getting your school's asthma and allergy form completed, including all food allergies, medicines to have at school and emergency contact information as soon as possible.
Also, Inform the teacher about your child's food allergies. Suggest minimizing class activities that involve food (art, rewards, parties) and notifying aides and substitute teachers about your child's allergies.
Learn what your child's school's bullying policies and procedures are, and keep the school informed. Early identification of potential bullies and victims is critical to stop the cycle of bullying and to prevent harmful or even fatal outcomes.
Finally, a child with mood or school performance problems due to bullying or victimization should be referred to a mental health professional experienced with bullying. When the bullying involves food allergies, collaboration among the allergist, the mental health professional, the family, and the patient's school is wise.
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