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Food Allergies Can Make Kids Targets for Bullies
Date:11/2/2012

By Jenifer Goodwin
HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, Nov. 2 (HealthDay News) -- As the mother of a child with a severe peanut allergy, Nicole Smith was vigilant about reading labels and making sure teachers and school administrators understood that ingesting even a trace amount of peanuts could kill her son.

Dealing with the allergy was challenging -- and got more so when she heard an alarming story. When her son, Morgan, was in first grade, another student chased him around the playground with a peanut butter cracker, shouting, "I'm going to kill you!"

"We were shocked," recalled Nicole, whose son is now a 16-year-old high school junior in Colorado Springs, Colo. "We really weren't prepared that anyone would bully him for his food allergies."

Yet research shows that many kids with food allergies report being bullied or teased about the condition.

About 8 percent of U.S. children are allergic to at least one food, and many of them have multiple food allergies, studies show. The foods most likely to cause reactions in kids include peanuts, tree nuts (such as cashews and walnuts), milk, shellfish and eggs.

A 2010 survey of more than 350 parents of food-allergic kids found that 35 percent of children aged 5 and older were bullied, teased or harassed because of the food allergy, and 86 percent of those reported it happening more than once.

Most of the bullying occurred at school. Although nearly 80 percent of the bullying was done by classmates, more than 20 percent reported that adults, including teachers and school staff, were the perpetrators.

Chillingly, some of the bullying went beyond taunts and teasing, according to the survey. More than half -- 57 percent -- described physical events, such as being touched by an allergen, having an allergen thrown or waved at them, and even intentional contamination of their food with allergen, according to the survey, which was published in the Annals
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