Heading back to school can be a big deal for kids. They meet new friends, adjust to new teachers, and get back in the swing of doing homework and participating in extra-curricular activities. When kids have food allergies, there’s even more to get used to. Kids may need to eat separately from other students if their food allergies are severe enough. They need to be on top of their game to vet food at school parties and activities, determining which items are safe to eat and which could elicit reactions. They may even have to endure food bullying.
It seems unfair that kids who are already dealing with the stresses of food allergies also have to endure chiding from peers, but this is a common problem. One in every 13 kids (about two per classroom) has food allergies. Of those kids, about one-third report being bullied on account of their allergies. Often, the bullying involves provoking the kids with trigger foods. This is not only embarrassing and demeaning for kids, but it could also be dangerous if the food elicits a severe reaction.
If children are being bullied on account of their food allergies, you may observe the following reactions:
- Appear sad, upset, withdrawn, or anxious
- Have trouble sleeping
- May express reluctance to go to school (though they may not admit to being bullied)
- Change their eating habits. (Watch for signs like uneaten food in their lunch box or sudden weight loss.)
If your child has a food allergy, make sure to communicate well with their school teacher and administrators. They can help promote understanding of your child’s food allergy at school. When peers and classmates know more about your child’s situation, they may be kinder and more compassionate. Sometimes kids bully less out of malice than out of misunderstanding.
It’s also important to communicate with your child. Nearly half of kids who are bullied for food allergies do not tell their parents. Talking to your kids can help ensure that they feel safe confiding in you if they are having trouble at school. If your children are being bullied, don’t ignore the problem. Take their concerns seriously and talk to school officials to find solutions.
If your child’s allergies are having a significant impact on their lives and social situation, food allergy treatment is now available. Ask your allergy doctor about sublingual allergy immunotherapy for egg, milk, wheat, and nut allergy treatment.