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

r.' People are sensitive to that. But we haven't gotten there yet with food allergies," she said.

To prevent bullying at school, teachers and principals need to make it clear that food allergies are no joke.

"Teachers and administrators would be horrified if they heard someone making fun of a child for diabetes or some other disability," Acebal said. "The same needs to happen for food allergies."

The incident involving Morgan Smith, who is also allergic to tree nuts, sesame, fish and shellfish, was taken seriously at his school. The boy who chased Morgan was suspended for the day. He never bullied Morgan again, and the two even later became friends.

"We were really lucky that it stopped when it did, and really lucky we had a principal that made that occur," Nicole Smith said.

According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, warning signs that a child is being bullied can include depression or withdrawal; not wanting to go to school; changes in eating habits, sleep habits or weight loss; or bringing home a full lunchbox or not eating lunch at school.

Morgan urged other kids with food allergies to be assertive, and to speak up and tell parents and teachers if they're being teased or threatened.

"We already have a lot on our mind. I'm trying to deal with foods that could possibly kill me or make me really sick," Morgan said. "So when someone picked on me for trying to deal with that, it was really saddening. It makes it that much harder."

More information

The Food Allergy Initiative has more on food allergies.

SOURCES: Nicole Smith, mother of food-allergic child, and Morgan Smith, teen with food allergies, Colorado Spring, Colo.; Maria Acebal, CEO, Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network; Jay Lieberman, M.D., assistant professor, allergy and immunology, University of Tennessee Health Science Center and Le Bonheur
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