Bullying in any form is unacceptable, and sadly it often evolves to another more severe and life-threatening form, with food as the bully’s weapon. Many of us know that bullying is wrong, but this type of behaviour persists and continues to spread with disregard to age and even place. Parents of children with food allergies are becoming alarmed, with this new form of an obstacle for their loved ones. A recent study shows that more than one-third of children and teens with food allergies (ages 8-17), reported being explicitly bullied because of their food allergies and it frequently includes threats with food, mostly by their classmates.
Types of bullying
Bullying is defined as unwanted and aggressive behaviour among school aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance that happens more than once.Statistics show that bullying mostly happens in school, but there is a small percentage that can occur in office cafeterias, buses, restaurants, and on the Internet.
There are three main types of bullying:
- Physical Bullying involves hurting a person or their possessions and often includes kicking, punching, spitting, making rude hand gestures, and breaking things to harm a person.
- Social Bullying revolves around hurting someone’s reputation or relationships that includes leaving someone out on purpose, telling others not to be friends with someone, and embarrassing someone in public.
- Verbal Bullying is writing or saying mean things to others that include teasing, name-calling, taunting, inappropriate sexual comments, and threatening or blackmailing.
Food allergy and bullying stories
The combination of bullying and food allergy in itself is already bothering. But we need to accept that it is happening in our current society. As food allergy parents, our main priority is the safety of our kids, especially when they’re in a school where we are not around. One step that most of us take is making school administrators, teachers, lunchroom staff, and medical emergency staff aware of our kids’ condition and allergens. Unfortunately, it still doesn’t protect our kids from being bullied.
We hear and read several stories and experiences from food allergy parents about how their loved ones were bullied with their allergens. We share their experiences to help others open their eyes to the sad reality about this issue. We have summarised their stories. We strongly advise you to check our references below for the full article, as told by the parents and victims themselves.
The first story is about Bridget’s son, and it happened in a town in Stockton. She shared that it is known in their small town that her boy has a dairy allergy. But in a basketball game, an older kid walked towards her 12-year-old son and smeared his face with nacho cheese dip. His son immediately washed it off and good thing it doesn’t escalate to an allergic reaction.
Another case shared by a mom from Reno NV, she recalled that two boys waved animal crackers to her son’s face while he is sitting in a designated table for someone with allergies in their school lunchroom.
A dad took to Twitter on how his son, with a severe peanut allergy, was taunted by his friends with PB&J sandwich and that same “friend” also said “let’s see if he dies” as if his son’s condition is nothing but a joke.
Another account of food allergy bullying happened to a 16-year-old named Brandon Williams, and it occurred while he was on a trip with his bowling team. It is known that he has a severe egg allergy and when his teammates decided to get some food at McDonald’s, one of his teammates ate food with too much mayonnaise in it, intentionally dripping it on Brandon’s jacket. Something that can easily trigger anaphylaxis. Brandon said he even reminded his teammates about his allergy, but was ignored.
A student from Central Michigan University pleaded guilty of assault and battery after smearing peanut butter on the face of an unconscious student with a severe peanut allergy as part of their hazing. The student survived after receiving treatment, but it could’ve easily led to his death.
In another instance outside school campus, one restaurant is facing a civil lawsuit after deliberately inserting food allergens to a customer’s order who made clear about their allergies when they placed their orders.
These stories are heartbreaking but show a disturbing truth that bullies found a weapon in food that is deadly to food allergy sufferers. What’s mind-boggling is that these bullies are aware of their victims’ condition and the consequence of their actions but still choose to continue with it.
Why Kids With Food Allergies Are Easy Targets of Bullying?
Unlike other illnesses that easily tell people when a person is sick, food allergies, or allergies, in general, are invisible and can go unnoticed until it’s triggered. Kids with allergies look normal, especially to a bully’s eyes and there are no signs stopping them from demonstrating their self-proclaimed power to those they see as weak.
Bullying affects the life of food allergy sufferers
Experts say that aside from anaphylaxis (after bullying with their allergens), bullied kids tend to have lower self-esteem, a higher level of anxiety, and live a lower quality of life. Surveys also reveal that bullied food allergy kids have trouble managing their condition and less likely to care enough to wear medical identification or badges of their condition.
How to help your kids
There are several ways to help your kids in cases of bullying, but it is best to talk to them and their school administrators (open communication is key). Both parents and school should work together to prevent these life-threatening incidents, that can leave survivors scarred for the rest of their lives, from occurring. It’s the parents’ responsibility to teach their kids about bullying, how to handle it, and possibilities of what will happen and its results. Awareness of these situations and accepting that it’s possible will help them prepare physically and mentally. If they’re being threatened about their allergy, it’s better to teach our kids to run away and to report it to school authorities. Let them understand that bullying is not okay and needs to stop, and to do that; we need to teach them to be open about it.
Epinephrine and PracMedic Bags Medicine Cases
We always remind and suggest that bringing an EpiPen, Auvi-Q, or other generic epinephrine auto-injectors are non-negotiable. Every child with food allergies should have it where they can easily reach it in case of anaphylaxis. Training our kids to use their auto-injectors is so important and will be useful, more so in the case where a bully is equipped with their known allergen. No doubt that our kids need protection and cooperation from us, school, friends, and classmates. Our epinephrine auto-injectors should have extra protection as well. PracMedic Bags premium quality medicine cases are perfect to hold EpiPens, Auvi-Q, and medical paraphernalia for school, field trips, camps, travel, or just everyday use.
2) stopbullying.gov https://www.stopbullying.gov/what-is-bullying/index.html
3) npr.org https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2018/06/05/613933607/parents-schools-step-up-efforts-to-combat-food-allergy-bullying 4) AllergyLiving https://www.allergicliving.com/2018/05/15/food-allergy-bullying-how-to-spot-if-your-child-is-a-target-and-actions-to-take/