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How Bullies Can Make Kids Sick

Being picked on isn't just scary for your child  -- it can actually be unhealthy. Kids who are bullied are more likely to have stomach pain, bed-wetting lapses, fatigue, anxiety, and depression, according to a new study. "The stress of what's happening can lead to sleep problems and loss of appetite, which in turn cause physical symptoms," says Robert Sege, M.D., chief of general pediatrics and adolescent medicine at Tufts University. "The pain these kids are feeling is real, not psychosomatic."

If your child has any of these symptoms, plus other warning signs (he hates school all of a sudden, for instance), but you and your pediatrician can't locate a medical cause, probe gently to find out if he's being pushed around: "Did anything good or bad happen at school today? What did you do at recess? You look at little sad  -- is something wrong?" If he is, tell the guidance counselor or principal, who can address the problem and arm your child with strategies, such as always staying within sight of the playground monitor during recess. Let his doctor know, too: Besides relieving the symptoms, she may suggest talking to a therapist. Most important, explain to your child that the bullying is not his fault. Knowing that just might make him feel better.

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