In a study published in Pediatrics in 2012, researchers from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai (New York, NY) surveyed 251 families to determine the prevalence and impact of bullying on children with food allergies, aged 8-17. They reported that more than one third of children and teens were bullied specifically because of their food allergies, usually by their classmates. A year later, the same research team conducted a follow-up study recently published in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: In Practice to learn whether the bullying continued and whether specific strategies led to a reduction in bullying.
Of the 124 families who participated in the second survey, 29 percent reported that their children were bullied because of their food allergies – a similar rate to what was reported in the first study. Thirty-four percent of these children were bullied “frequently” – more than twice a month. Sixty-nine percent of the children who reported being bullied in the first study said that the bullying continued. Bullying lessened for 31 percent of the children. Not surprisingly, when bullying resolved, quality of life improved.
Simply talking about bullying with parents did not improve a child’s quality of life. The most successful strategies were parental intervention with the help of school personnel or, less frequently, with the help of the bully’s parents. Based on the results of this and other studies, the researchers recommend that physicians ask parents and children about bullying during office visits. If a child is being bullied, parents should address the issue with school personnel.
Watch FARE’s Food Allergy Bullying: “It’s Not a Joke” PSA: