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Children With Food Allergies Are Easy Targets for Bullies

Update Date: Dec 24, 2012 01:14 PM EST

A new study suggests that about one-third of children who have food allergies suffer bullying at school. So apart from constantly watching out for allergens, parents of children suffering from food allergy also need to be highly vigilant about their children's day-to-day encounters and make sure that their child is not the favorite target of a bully in class.

It is very easy to scare and bully children with any kind of food allergy. It is just as easy as waving a peanut in front of their face, the study author explains.

The study conducted by researchers at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai revealed that about half of the parents surveyed were not even aware of bullying, in spite of them reporting higher stress and low quality of life.

For the study, the researchers surveyed 251 pairs of parents and children who were recruited during allergy clinic visits, and were asked to independently answer questionnaires to evaluate bullying for any cause among parents and children.

"Parents and pediatricians should routinely ask children with food allergy about bullying," said lead author of the study, Dr Eyal Shemesh, MD, Associate Professor of Pediatrics and Psychiatry at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

"Finding out about the child's experience might allow targeted interventions, and would be expected to reduce additional stress and improve quality of life for these children trying to manage their food allergies."

"When parents are aware of the bullying, the child's quality of life is better," said the senior author, Scott H. Sicherer, MD, Professor of Pediatrics, Chief, Division of Pediatric Allergy, Co-Director, EMPOWER program.

"Our results should raise awareness for parents, school personnel, and physicians to proactively identify and address bullying in this population."

About eight percent of children in the U.S. are allergic to foods such as peanuts, tree-nuts, milk, eggs, and shellfish, the report says.

The study, titled, "Child and Parental Reports of Bullying in a Consecutive Sample of Children with Food Allergy," appears in the online issue of Pediatrics on December 24.

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