PURPOSE OF THE STUDY.
To determine the scope and characteristics of bullying, teasing, or harassment of food-allergic patients because of their food allergies.
A specialized questionnaire developed by experts in food allergy and bullying was administered to teenagers and adults with food allergies and parents/caregivers of children with food allergies at conferences of the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network in 2009.
The anonymous questionnaire included 11 demographic questions and 16 questions about bullying, teasing, and harassment.
Most of the 353 completed surveys were taken by parents of food-allergic children. Of the food-allergic children, 61% were male, 95% were white, and 55% were 4 to 11 years old. Overall, 24% were reported to have been bullied, teased, or harassed about their food allergies, and 86% reported multiple episodes. Most (82%) of the episodes occurred at school (80% by classmates and 21% by teachers/staff). A total of 57% reported physical events, and 66% reported sadness or depression related to the events.
Food-allergic children experience bullying that is common, frequent, and repetitive, and there are resultant physical and emotional risks.
This study was limited by a possibly biased and homogenous sample. Because bullying and food allergy are increasing in society, it becomes even more important to understand the burden of bullying in people with food allergy and to work to develop educational programs and strategies for preventing this from occurring. As clinicians, we need to screen our food-allergic patients for maltreatment so that we can identify and support them.
- Copyright © 2011 by the American Academy of Pediatrics