Young food allergy patients vulnerable to bullying
NEWS IN BRIEF — Posted Dec. 31, 2012
Bullying of children with food allergies is common, but the amount of stress such incidents place on victims can be lessened if their parents know about the situation, says a study in Pediatrics published online Dec. 24.
Physicians can increase awareness by asking children with food allergies about bullying encounters, said the study (link). The National Center for Health Statistics says 3 million U.S. children under 18 had a food or digestive allergy in 2007, up 18% from 1997.
For the study, researchers surveyed 251 families during visits to the Jaffe Food Allergy Institute in the Dept. of Pediatrics at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York. They found that 32% of children and 25% of parents said the child had experienced bullying about their food allergy. Parents knew about the child-reported bullying in only 52% of cases. Children who were bullied reported lower quality of life and greater levels of distress than those who hadn’t been bullied, but the impact was lessened when parents were aware of the harassment.
The findings probably underestimate the prevalence of bullying of food allergy patients, because respondents were primarily white and affluent, the study said.