Emerging Bullying Concern: Kids with Food Allergies

Sep 28, 2012, 2:25 PM

As the school year gets firmly under way, the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) is reporting that 25 percent of food allergic children say they have been bullied because of their food allergy, and among those bullied 57 percent report being touched or harassed by children dangling a food allergen, such as peanuts, dairy and eggs.

“Food allergies are serious and shouldn’t be taken lightly in schools, especially when it comes to bullying,” said allergist Stanley Fineman, MD, president of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. “There is always the possibility of anaphylaxis, a severe allergic reaction that occurs suddenly, can worsen quickly and can cause death.”

A 2010 study published in Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology found that 80 percent of food bullying incidents happens while at school. Food bullying can range from verbal teasing to forceful acts of making a student come in contact with an allergen.

The ACAAI says the bullying is especially concerning because the number of kids with a food allergy has doubled from 4 percent in 2010, to about 8 percent in 2012.  

The warning signs of food bullying are similar to other forms of bullying, according to the ACAAI:

  • Signs of depression and withdrawal
  • No desire or fear of going to school
  • Changes in eating habits and weight loss
  • Changes in behavior and sleep patterns
  • Bringing home a full lunchbox or not eating lunch at school

>>Bonus Link: Read a recent study from the American Journal of Public Health on cyber bullying, and read more on bullying prevention efforts.

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF New Public Health blog.