CLEVELAND – October is National Bullying Prevention Month.
Food allergy bullying is a growing problem in schools, according to allergists.
Research shows about one third of children with food allergies report being bulled because of them.
According to Cleveland Clinic allergist Sandra Hong, M.D., food allergy bullying can range from being hurtful to deadly.
“Comments like, ‘We can’t have parties because of the food allergies that Jimmy has,’ or more aggressive where they’re saying, ‘I’m going to hide peanut butter in your food’,” said Dr. Hong.
Children who have food allergies can have a dangerous, potentially life threatening, allergic reaction after eating or coming into contact with foods they’re severely allergic to.
Completely avoiding the food is the only way to prevent a reaction.
Bullies may use foods like peanuts or peanut butter, to threaten or taunt a child with a food allergy.
Children bullied because of their food allergy often don’t report it to their parents, which is why Dr. Hong said it’s important to know the warning signs.
She said a bullied child may act differently; they may be sad, upset, withdrawn or even nervous about going to school.
“If they really just a have a real aversion to wanting to go to school, you want to get to the bottom of it,” said Dr. Hong. “If there’s something more; there’s something deeper, you’d want to be there and have open communication at all times so that you can deal with it.”
Dr. Hong said it’s important to notify a child’s school if they have been bullied because of a food allergy so school administrators can intervene.