Children with food allergies are often targeted by bullies because of their allergies, according to a study published in Pediatrics this week.
The study, which surveyed 251 families, found that 31.5 percent of the children with food allergies (and 24.7 percent of their parents) reported bullying specifically due to their food allergies, frequently including threats with foods, primarily by classmates.
Bullying is strongly associated with decreased quality of life among targeted kids – manifesting in increased anxiety in children, independent of the reported severity of the allergy.
Of those surveyed, approximately half the parents reported being aware of bullying. Children whose parents were aware of the bullying had less stress and a higher quality of life than those whose parents were unaware.
To increase disclosure of bullying, "clinicians might consider asking a screening question about bullying during encounters with children with food allergy," researchers suggested.
While it's hard to compare the results with those of other studies, food-allergic children may be bullied or harassed more than their peers, according to the study.
"This finding, although alarming, is not surprising, given that children with food allergies have a vulnerability that can be easily exploited," they wrote.