The Frightening Reality of Bullying for Kids with Food Allergies
We've all heard stories of bullying in schools, with students being taunted and tormented at the hands of other students. But there is another level of bullying that while it may not be as well-known, can be even more dangerous – to the point of being immediately life threatening. We're talking about food allergy bullying.
Kids who suffer from food allergies know what it's like to be an outsider. Often they are relegated to a certain table in the lunchroom or left out of food-related events during class parties or projects. They also know the daily stress of knowing that exposure to their allergen can mean a reaction and all that entails – medications, doctors, fear. So they are particularly vulnerable to bullying.
So what is food allergy bullying? It can be something like waving the food in front of them, throwing food at them, trying to trick them into eating their allergen, or force-feeding the allergenic food. This may sound like the silly food fights or mischief we sometimes see in movies, but for kids with food allergies, these small acts can be a life or death matter. In addition, food allergy bullying also can often come from adults – teachers, parents, or coaches whose insensitivity and lack of training lead to bad behavior. A teacher eating a snack of peanut butter crackers in a classroom with a severely peanut allergic child can make that child feel isolated, scared, and betrayed by a teacher who should be a source of support and a safe person in their life. A parent who leaves out the child with the food allergy when planning parties or festivities.
This isn't an uncommon problem. Almost half of kids with food allergies report being bullied. And just this year a student was actually arrested in relation to a food bullying incident that led to the death of a 13-year-old boy.
The reality is that food allergies must be taken seriously. And while kids with allergies quickly learn to advocate for themselves it's also necessary for other children, parents, teachers, and others to be aware of the risks and realities of food allergies and how to help these kids stay safe.
You can learn more at NoAppetiteForBullying.com and in the video below.