Managing food allergies for kids is certainly a family affair and can take some time to adjust to both in and out of the home. In the last few years, the media has been reporting on the increasing rate of bullying amongst young children and if managing food allergies wasn’t hard enough- a recent study found that kids are even being bullied about food allergies.
Approximately 8% of US children are allergic to foods like eggs, peanuts, shellfish, tree-nuts, shellfish and milk. The Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai study found that nearly one-third of children diagnosed with a food allergy are being bullied.
Led by Eyal Shemesh, MD, Associate Professor of Pediatrics and Psychiatry at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, the study surveyed 251 pairs of parents and their food allergic children. The child-parent pairs were recruited during allergy clinic visits and asked to complete questionnaires regarding being bullied about food allergies for any reason, quality of life, and the level of distress for the both the child and the parent.
Nearly half of the parents, 47.9 %, were unaware of any bullying- yet both the bullied children and their parents reported both higher stress levels and lower quality of life. Dr. Shemesh explains: “Parents and pediatricians should routinely ask children with food allergy about bullying. Finding out about the child’s experience might allow targeted interventions, and would be expected to reduce additional stress and improve quality of life for these children trying to manage their food allergies.”
The results of the study hope to raise awareness for parents, schools, and doctors to help identify and address bullying of kids with food allergies. The study was supported by the EMPOWER program- Enhancing, Managing, and Promoting Well-being and Resiliency-which helps food allergic children and their families. EMPOWER is funded by the Jaffe Family Foundation which is devoted to understanding and improving the life of people with food allergies.