Almost 8% of children in the U.S. are allergic to foods such as peanuts, tree nuts, milk, eggs, and shellfish.
The study, “Child and Parental Reports of Bullying in a Consecutive Sample of Children with Food Allergy,” was published on Christmas Eve in the online issue of Pediatrics. Led by Eyal Shemesh, MD, Associate Professor of Pediatrics and Psychiatry at Mount Sinai, researchers surveyed 251 pairs of parents and children. The patient and parent pairs were consecutively recruited during allergy clinic visits. Patients and parents independently answered questions about bullying due to food allergy or for any cause, and quality of life. Distress in both the child and parent were also evaluated.
Of 251 families who completed the surveys, more than 45% of the children and 36% of their parents indicated that the child had been bullied or harassed for any reason, and 31.5% of the children and 24.7% of the parents reported bullying specifically due to food allergy.
The bullies were usually classmates and bullying frequently involved threats with the foods the child was allergic to. Not surprisingly, bullying was significantly associated with decreased Quality of Life and increased distress in parents and children.
“Parents and pediatricians should routinely ask children with food allergy about bullying,” said Dr. Shemesh. “Finding out about the child’s experience might allow targeted interventions, and would be expected to reduce additional stress and improve quality of life for these children trying to manage their food allergies.”
The study also showed that when parents were aware of the bullying, the child’s Quality of Life was better. “Our results should raise awareness for parents, school personnel, and physicians to proactively identify and address bullying in this population,” says Scott Sicherer, MD, Professor of Pediatrics, and Chief of Pediatric Allergy at Mount Sinai Medical Center, NY.
Have you or your child experienced bullying as a result of a food allergy? Share your stories with us to help shed more light on this worrying trend.