Food allergies in young children can be a stigma.
The day I chose this topic for my blog, my mom told me about an incident that had occurred with a little girl I used to babysit. Due to her age, I will be changing her name.
I used to babysit Sally* and she was highly allergic to peanuts and strawberries. As she grew older, the allergies expanded to include chocolate and eggs. She is now in middle school battling some extensive food allergies.
Sally* recently had a falling out with her best friend. Well, her best friend went to the group of friends that they both hung out with and managed to turn the girls against Sally. One day during school, they managed to chase after Sally* with peanut butter on their hands, tackled her and intended to smear peanut butter all over her face. That is, until a teacher intervened.
This is a case of allergy bullying.
Sally’s* incident is not the first case of allergy-related bullying and it won’t be the last. According to CNN Health,
“A 2010 study in the journal Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology said that 35% of kids over age 5 with food allergies have endured bullying, teasing or harassment. Parents of children with food allergies reported in the study that these incidents — both physical and verbal — happened because of food allergies.”
The number of children and young adults with food allergies is growing. The study also reported that 8% of the population have at least one food allergy.
Megan Maloney, who currently lives in Virginia, was bullied about food allergies during 7th grade at a school in Cleveland, Ohio. In an interview with NPR, Maloney said,
“I believe I was the only student in the whole school with a food allergy. Everyone was informed about my allergy, so all my classmates knew I had a milk allergy, but I don’t know if they understood its severity. Being the new kid, I really didn’t fit in anyway. One day at lunch, I got up to use the restroom, leaving my lunch on the table. When I returned, several people were snickering and watching me. I reached for my open can of soda to take a drink and at the last second someone said “stop.” Several classmates had put a piece of cheese pizza in my soda. And they were very disappointed that I didn’t drink from the can.”
Megan had not alerted teachers of her food allergies because she wanted to fit in. She begged her mother to not report the kids who had done this to her soda. In the end, her mother and Megan worked out a system to never leave her food unsupervised.
As of right now, there is no cure. Allergy shots exist but those are for environmental allergies. The only thing that can be done is to keep Epinephrine Auto-Injector (EPIPEN) on you or your child.
I have included a PSA from FARE below. I have also attached a related article to victims of food bullying speaking out and listed the sources that I have used in this post.
King, Barbara J. “Bullied With Food: Another Risk for Kids with Food Allergies.” NPR. N.p., 27 June 2013. Google. Web. 20 July 2013. <http://www.npr.org/blogs/13.7/2013/06/27/195557402/bullied-with-food-another-risk-for-kids-with-food-allergies>.
Landau, Elizabeth. “Allergy bullying: When food is a weapon.” CNN Health. N.p., 7 Jan. 2013. Google. Web. 20 July 2013. <http://www.cnn.com/2013/01/05/health/bullying-food-allergies>.