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Bullied Kids Showing Up in School Nurses' Offices
Date:4/25/2011

By John Leighty
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, April 25 (HealthDay News) -- Elementary school children who were victims of peer bullying -- along with the bullies themselves -- made more frequent visits to a school nurse's office with complaints of physical illnesses and injuries than their other classmates, according to new research out of Kansas.

"The message is, a child might be getting frequent stomachaches from being picked on," said Eric Vernberg, lead author of the study and director of the Child and Family Services Clinic at the University of Kansas in Lawrence.

The research, published in the May issue of Pediatrics, revealed a useful strategy for detecting aggressive interactions among children that may otherwise go recognized, added Vernberg.

"If a child is frequently showing up at the nurse's office with a fever or vomiting and no obvious illness, it might reflect the visit is related to victimization and to some extent aggression," Vernberg said. He added that when a student often visits a school nurse and parents get calls about their child complaining of stomachaches, "it's certainly worth examining the child's relationship with [his] peers."

The report is intended to prompt investigation into such cases by school nurses and others to see whether school officials need to intervene to stop bullying.

The Kansas study involved 590 children in grades 3 through 5, and identified a small but statistically significant number who were involved in bullying incidents in six Topeka primary schools. These students went to a nurse's office an average of 4.71 times during the 2000-01 school year.

The study found that aggressive interactions among children can hurt their health and do particular harm to the victimized child, who is likely to become socially withdrawn.

About 45 percent of trips to the school nurse were for somatic, or physical, complaints such as headaches. Another
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