…to cause a cascade of unfortunate events for a child with a food allergy. Besides having to say “NO” to the tasty treat due to potential allergy-triggering ingredients, the student may encounter taunting and teasing from classmates for having an allergy- insult icing!
Both the number of children with food allergies and bullying incidents of these kids are on the rise. According to a 2013 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, food allergies have increased in children approximately 50% between 1997 and 2011, estimated at nearly six million children, or 8% of kids in the U.S and roughly two in every classroom. Unfortunately about one-third of these kids are bullied because of their allergies. This can run the gamut from being barred from activities involving food by teachers to name calling by peers or even threats to the allergic child using the potential food allergen. Faced with this, the allergy-challenged child experiences increased stress and anxiety. This may lead to their not eating during school, avoiding school or even succumbing to peer pressure and forgoing the off-limits food, in spite of possible harmful side effects. Bullying can be both emotionally and physically damaging.
Parents, teachers, and the community can be instrumental in curbing food allergy bullying. Scripting responses, role playing scenarios and running interference with school personnel are ways parents can help. Kelly Huth writes about these and offers suggestions and supporting information for parents on this website.
Guidelines for schools and training materials are available through the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN) website. The School Nutrition Association has training available to members on their School Nutrition University website. Online training for non-healthcare school personnel developed by FAAN and the Food Allergy Initiative can be found on their website.
The Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE) has an online public campaign - “It’s Not a Joke” - that has sparked a lot of media attention to food allergy bullying. Their PSA, along with other materials, are available on the campaign website www.foodallergy.org/its-not-a-joke.
What Every Parent Must Know about Managing Food Allergies at School: Must-know facts for establishing a safe and inclusive school environment.
CDC Guidelines: The Gold Standard for Food Allergy Management in Schools: Highlights from the CDC Guidelines: Developing a Food Allergy Management and Prevention Plan (FAMPP); Following Federal Laws; Recommendations for Safety and Inclusion; Actions for District and School Administrators and Staff
For additional information and resources consider: http://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/foodallergies
Sharing information and resources on the serious nature of food allergies and increasing awareness of the dangers of food allergy bullying is a way to be a change agent for kids with allergies. Spark some attention to this- spread the word. Be the icing on an allergy-free cupcake!
1. Allergy statistics. American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology website.
2. Food allergies: what you need to know. US Food and Drug Administration website.
3. Lieberman JA, Weiss C, Furlong TJ, Sicherer M, Sicherer SH. Bullying among pediatric patients with food allergy. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 2010;105(4):282-286.