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Kids with Severe Food Allergies Threatened with Peanuts

Kids with Severe Food Allergies Threatened with Peanuts

We’ve seen kids get bullied for lots of reasons–for being gay, for having learning disabilities and for being overweight. Now, it seems that there is another bullying risk factor to add to the long list: having a food allergy.

According to TIME magazine, “nearly half of kids with food allergies say they’ve been bullied, and a third report that the bullying was food-related. In the most concerning cases, the kids said they were taunted by other kids who stuffed allergens into their mouth or threw food at them.” Owen Kellog, a 7-year-old boy in Utah with a severe peanut allergy, came home crying and scared because another boy told him that he had a peanut and he was going to make him eat it (CNN).

Hard to believe? Unfortunately, as the severity of online and school bullying has risen over the past few years, the fact that kids would exploit their peers’ possibly-fatal allergies seems less far-fetched. Over 2 million school-age children in the United States have food allergies, and the number is on the rise. In kids under 3, the incidence of food allergies is one in 17 (foodallergy.org).

Social ostracism

In schools with peanut-free policies, kids with allergies may be blamed for policies that restrict what their classmates can eat. At a classroom event or birthday party, they may not be able to indulge in the same snacks as their friends. For school-age children, anything that sets them apart or makes them feel left out can have huge social and emotional consequences.

Health risks

Apart from the social consequences that allergies can pose for kids, severe allergies can also be life-threatening. Being taunted with a peanut or other allergen is terrifying for a child whose parents have emphasized how dangerous the food item can be for them. Kids without allergies may not realize how serious the consequences could be if they were to sneak an allergen into their classmate’s food as a joke. Being constantly on guard and worried about what they are eating is stressful for kids and can lead to nutrition problems and anxiety.

Raising awareness

Campaigns against bullying for sexual orientation — largely inspired by the recent string of teen suicides related to bullying — have been hugely successful in raising awareness about that issue. Food allergy-related bullying should receive the same intense promotion. Parents of kids with food allergies should ask them if they have been bullied in the past, and talk to them about how to handle it if they are harassed in the future. Getting teachers, principals, and school staff involved is also a crucial step towards making sure that no child feels pressure to eat a food that could potentially kill him. Kids’ lives are at stake, and the time to act is now, before a tragedy occurs.

 

Related Stories:

Food Allergies Higher in City Kids

Peanuts in Green Beans? Why Checking Labels for Allergens Isn’t Enough

Classmates’ Parents Demand Home Schooling for Girl with Peanut Allergy

 

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Photo: USDAgov

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96 comments

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9:01AM PDT on May 3, 2013

purposely hurting someone else in any way is just wrong

6:17AM PDT on Mar 19, 2013

This is a way to protect our kids

8:21PM PST on Jan 19, 2013

i have be bully mi complete live, at home, one school, even by teachers; and their are people who still bully me one internet. It where children also grown ups. if i kick back. Their just say i be the one. So dont dramatise it. You must be against evry bully. not just food. evry bullying kills. The spirit, the body and general the joy in live

10:20PM PST on Jan 16, 2013

"Children have ALWAYS tormented other children who are different in any way."
Absolutely, John D, but there is a huge difference between uttering words or ostracizing someone, and performing actions that can kill you!

I would get big, itching blisters after my skin got in contact with grass, and once a boy shoved grass down my T-shirt despite my protests. He hadn't seen the blisters (they were fugly so I went out of of my way to hide them when I did get them), so he didn't believe me. He wasn't mean or a bully; we were just playing and teasing each other, and he thought I just made it up.

I think educating children about such dangers is the first place to start. Surely some of these cases must be children who don't understand how lethal allergies, or for that matter other diseases like diabetes and asthma, can be.

9:36AM PST on Jan 15, 2013

An how low can folks go????????? I'm stunned!

8:44AM PST on Jan 15, 2013

So should we start segmenting the children because other parents can't beat the crap out of their children to teach them a little respect? Maybe give them a little taste of what 'fatal' means? People are too soft these days...

6:39AM PST on Jan 15, 2013

We never had these problems when I was growing up, I'm 60 and if their was food you eat it..

6:39AM PST on Jan 15, 2013

thanks for posting

3:40AM PST on Jan 15, 2013

Children have ALWAYS tormented other children who are different in any way. Kids with glasses. Kids with a handicap. It is should not be a surprise to anyone that food allergies would be any different. Children are, and have always been, increadibly crueal and intolerant. Teaching children that this is wrong is part of growing up.

1:55PM PST on Jan 13, 2013

what they won't do next.

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