Background: There are reports of children and teens with food allergy being harassed because of their food allergy, yet no study to date has attempted to characterize these occurrences.
Objectives: To determine the presence and characteristics of bullying, teasing, or harassment of food-allergic patients owing to their food allergies.
Methods: Questionnaires were completed by food-allergic teens and adults and by parents of food-allergic children.
Results: A total of 353 surveys were completed. Because most food-allergic individuals were children, most surveys were completed by parents of food-allergic individuals. The ages of the food-allergic individuals were younger than 4 years (25.9%), 4 to 11 years (55.0%), 12 to 18 years (12.5%), 19 to 25 years (2.6%), and older than 25 years (4.0%). Including all age groups, 24% of respondents reported that the food-allergic individual had been bullied, teased, or harassed because of food allergy. Of those who were bullied, teased, or harassed, 86% reported multiple episodes. Eighty-two percent of episodes occurred at school, and 80% were perpetrated mainly by classmates. Twenty-one percent of those who were bullied, teased, or harassed reported the perpetrators to be teachers or school staff. Overall, 79% of those bullied, teased, or harassed attributed this solely to food allergy. Of those bullied, 57% described physical events, such as being touched by an allergen and having an allergen thrown or waved at them, and several reported intentional contamination of their food with allergen.
Conclusions: Bullying, teasing, and harassment of children with food allergy seems to be common, frequent, and repetitive. These actions pose emotional and physical risks that should be addressed in food allergy management.
Copyright © 2010 American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.