Bullies Throw Peanuts at Allergic Kids

Bullies tend to choose unpopular kids so they can keep their status while not losing the affection of the in-group, a new study finds. (Image credit: Dreamstime.)

Children get bullied for being gay, fat, clumsy on the field, and now a new study finds you can add those with food allergies to the list.

More than 30 percent of children studied for the new research reported having been bullied, teased or harassed because of their food allergy, according to a study published this month in the journal Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.

Although verbal abuse is the most common form of bullying found, over 40 percent of the children who said they were bullied were reported to have been threatened physically with acts such as being touched with their allergen, such as a peanut, or having the allergen thrown or waved at them.

"Bullying, whether physical or verbal, is abusive behavior that can have a tremendous impact on a child's emotional well-being," said study researcher Christopher Weiss, vice president, advocacy and government relations of the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network.

About 12 million Americans, including 3 million children, have food allergies, according to the study researchers.

"These children face daily challenges in managing their food allergies," said study researcher Dr. Scott Sicherer, an allergist at the Jaffe Food Allergy Institute at Mount Sinai in New York. "Sadly, this study shows they may also be bullied about their food allergy, a medical condition that is potentially fatal."

In the survey of 353 parents and caregivers of food-allergic children and others with food allergies, nearly one in four individuals in all age groups indicated having been bullied, teased or harassed because of their food allergy. Of those affected, 86 percent reported multiple episodes.

About 82 percent of these episodes occurred at school, with 80 percent of the cases involving classmates as the bullies and about 20 percent involving teachers or other school staff as bullies.

"Recent cases involving bullying and food allergy include a middle school student who found peanut butter cookie crumbs in her lunchbox and a high school student whose forehead was smeared with peanut butter in the cafeteria," Weiss said.

The researchers call for the development of anti-harassment policies related to food allergy.

Live Science Staff
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