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Nearly One-Third of Kids With Food Allergies May Be Bullied
Date:12/24/2012

By Amy Norton
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, Dec. 24 (HealthDay News) -- Many children with food allergies may be bullied at school -- sometimes with potentially dangerous threats to their physical health, a new study suggests.

The study, of 251 families at a New York City allergy clinic, found that about one-third of kids said they'd been bullied specifically because of their food allergy.

The bullying usually happened at school and often took the form of teasing. But in many cases, the children said classmates threatened them with the food to which they were allergic -- waving it in front of them, throwing it at them or saying they would sneak it into their other food.

"With food allergies, that kind of bullying does carry a theoretical physical risk," said Dr. Jay Lieberman, an assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, in Memphis, who was not involved in the study.

Food allergy symptoms can range from hives, swollen lips and stomach pain to potentially life-threatening reactions where children can't breathe and their blood pressure plummets.

In the United States, an estimated 4 percent to 5 percent of kids younger than 18 have a food allergy, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. A handful of foods, including peanuts, cow's milk, eggs and fish, account for most.

Because parents of food-allergic kids are usually vigilant about avoiding the culprit foods, severe allergic reactions are fortunately rare, said Dr. Eyal Shemesh, the lead researcher on the new study.

"What really affects these children's lives is everything that surrounds the allergy -- the food avoidance, the anxiety," said Shemesh, an associate professor of pediatrics and psychiatry at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, in New York City.

And bullying, apparently, can be part of the "everything" that surrounds kids' food allergies. Children could
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