New class of school bullies is taunting kids with dangerous food allergies
As more children are diagnosed, classrooms are becoming more conscientious of deadly food allergies. However, disturbing trends are showing that this awareness may not be purely positive, at least, not among the students.
Bullying has long been a problem in schools, but Yahoo! News reports that kids are becoming more calculating, targeting children with deadly food allergies. Students as young as five are being threatened with peanuts, soy products, and other items that can cause extreme or even fatal reactions.
Bullying children with food allergies is a common occurrence, according to a survey in the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Parents, health professionals, and educators are concerned. Children can quickly discover their classmates’ allergies at lunchtime, but may be too young to have a full understanding of the deadly consequences.
An announcement released by the nonprofit organization Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE) states that only eight foods make up 90 percent of all food-related allergies. While we may recognize many of these repeat offenders, such as peanuts, shellfish, eggs, and wheat, FARE says that more education initiatives are needed to help discourage this new wave of lunchroom bullying.
Food Allergies Can Make Kids Targets for Bullies
FRIDAY, Nov. 2 (HealthDay News) -- As the mother of a child with a severe peanut allergy, Nicole Smith was vigilant about reading labels and making sure teachers and school administrators understood that ingesting even a trace amount of peanuts could kill her son.
Dealing with the allergy was challenging -- and got more so when she heard an alarming story. When her son, Morgan, was in first grade, another student chased him around the playground with a peanut butter cracker, shouting, "I'm going to kill you!"
"We were shocked," recalled Nicole, whose son is now a 16-year-old high school junior in Colorado Springs, Colo. "We really weren't prepared that anyone would bully him for his food allergies."
Yet research shows that many kids with food allergies report being bullied or teased about the condition.
About 8 percent of U.S. children are allergic to at least one food, and many of them have multiple food allergies, studies show. The foods most likely to cause reactions in kids include peanuts, tree nuts (such as cashews and walnuts), milk, shellfish and eggs.
A 2010 survey of more than 350 parents of food-allergic kids found that 35 percent of children aged 5 and older were bullied, teased or harassed because of the food allergy, and 86 percent of those reported it happening more than once.
Most of the bullying occurred at school. Although nearly 80 percent of the bullying was done by classmates, more than 20 percent reported that adults, including teachers and school staff, were the perpetrators.
Chillingly, some of the bullying went beyond taunts and teasing, according to the survey. More than half -- 57 percent -- described physical events, such as being touched by an allergen, having an allergen thrown or waved at them, and even intentional contamination of their food with allergen, according to the survey, which was published in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.
"The one thing that makes food allergy different from bullying because of, say, obesity, is that in addition to the emotional and psychological distress, you run the risk of a physical harm if the allergen is indeed placed in food," said lead study author Dr. Jay Lieberman, assistant professor of allergy and immunology at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center and Le Bonheur Children's Hospital in Memphis.
Lieberman noted that the survey respondents did not report any allergic reaction due to intentionally contaminated food, presumably because the food-allergic kids saw it being done and didn't eat the food.
To what extent the teasing or bullying was malicious versus reflecting a lack of understanding about the severity of food allergies isn't known. But food-allergy experts say they've heard plenty of stories -- a child with a peanut allergy having peanut butter smeared on his backpack, or a child with a dairy allergy having milk sprayed at his face through a straw.
"A lot of kids and a lot of parents don't really get that this is life threatening," said Maria Acebal, CEO of the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network. "But we also see the most pernicious kind -- 'I know that this will harm you and I'm going to harm you.'"
There are several explanations for why having food allergies may make kids a target for teasing, experts say. Any time a child is "different" -- whether it's wearing glasses or not being able to eat the same foods as other kids -- other children can seize on that, Acebal said.
But societal attitudes also play a role, including a lack of awareness that something as seemingly innocuous as eating a cookie that has a trace of peanut in it can trigger a fatal reaction in some people, she added.
And food allergies are the butt of jokes on TV and in movies, she said.
"I think our society knows better than to say, 'Ha, ha, there goes the kid in the wheelchair.' People are sensitive to that. But we haven't gotten there yet with food allergies," she said.
To prevent bullying at school, teachers and principals need to make it clear that food allergies are no joke.
"Teachers and administrators would be horrified if they heard someone making fun of a child for diabetes or some other disability," Acebal said. "The same needs to happen for food allergies."
The incident involving Morgan Smith, who is also allergic to tree nuts, sesame, fish and shellfish, was taken seriously at his school. The boy who chased Morgan was suspended for the day. He never bullied Morgan again, and the two even later became friends.
"We were really lucky that it stopped when it did, and really lucky we had a principal that made that occur," Nicole Smith said.
According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, warning signs that a child is being bullied can include depression or withdrawal not wanting to go to school changes in eating habits, sleep habits or weight loss or bringing home a full lunchbox or not eating lunch at school.
Morgan urged other kids with food allergies to be assertive, and to speak up and tell parents and teachers if they're being teased or threatened.
"We already have a lot on our mind. I'm trying to deal with foods that could possibly kill me or make me really sick," Morgan said. "So when someone picked on me for trying to deal with that, it was really saddening. It makes it that much harder."
Secondary school responds
Meanwhile, the school principal, Mr.Abdul Harris Sumardi, has clarified that he is aware of the incident and has taken appropriate disciplinary action against the students involved.
Apparently, all 6 students, including the victim, were counselled.
He told The Straits Times, "We are also working with their parents to help the students learn from the incident."
This is hardly the first such case of bullying in schools. Last year, a video of three boys fighting in a classroom at St Hilda’s Secondary School had gone viral online.
According to a recent report, Singapore has the third highest rate of bullying globally!
Food Allergy Bullying – What’s the Solution?
There has been an abundance of publicity surrounding Food Allergy Bullying recently. My now 17 year old son, Morgan, experienced bullying around his food allergy in first grade, so I certainly empathize with this problem. What concerns me, however, is that it appears that news organizations, research and a public service announcement continue to focus on the problem and not on a solution. With many more years of parenting under my belt, experience of what does work and a long term view of bullying, I want to share some solutions to Food Allergy Bullying.
First, let’s look at some of the history.
In October 2010, a research study by Dr. Scott Sicherer and Anne Munoz-Furlong (then CEO of FAAN, the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network) and others, published a study of bullying among pediatric patients with food allergy. Their calculation of the percentage affected: “Including all age groups, 24% of respondents reported that the food-allergic individual had been bullied, teased, or harassed because of food allergy.”
The Food Allergy Bullying publicity was refueled with a research study reported in the January 2013 Pediatrics Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics that cited .5% of the children and 24.7% of the parents surveyed reported bullying specifically due to FA, frequently including threats with foods, primarily by classmates.”
FARE (Food Allergy Research & Education) created a Public Service Announcement about Food Allergy Bullying: It’s Not a Joke, and a recent New York Times blog post by Catherine Saint Louis called “In Bullies Hands, Nuts or Milk May Be a Weapon” furthered the discussion of this issue.
All of these sources talk about the problem of food allergy bullying, which does raise awareness about food allergies in general. The raising of awareness is a good thing, and I will certainly agree that Food Allergy Bullying is a problem. However, none of these sources are providing a solution to it. Emotional stories about children being bullied pull at our heart strings. They cause fear for parents of children with food allergies, especially if those children are young and not yet in school. Parents of young children who hear only that the school cafeteria is a scary place have expressed to me “that’s why I’m going to homeschool my child.” Rather than scaring parents (and children for that matter!), or allowing parents to think that the only solution to Food Allergy Bullying is to homeschool – let’s start talking about what parents and children with food allergies can do. And what schools and school employees can do. Let’s stop talking about fear and start talking about the existing laws, accurate statistics and empowering our children. Fear and frothy emotional appeals gain headlines, but they don’t help our children to live in a world that doesn’t yet understand the seriousness of food allergies. Let’s be educators ourselves, and talk solutions.
What are the solutions to food allergy bullying that we need to be talking about?
We need to be talking about the laws that are available for children with food allergies in schools.
- A child with a food allergy has the right to an evaluation for a Section 504 Plan by the public school district where the child will attend school. This Plan will list the accommodations necessary for that child to receive FAPE – a Free Appropriate Public Education. The ADA Amendments Act of 2008 have made big changes to what is considered a disability in school. The ADA no longer focuses on the disability but on what services a child needs. The 2008 amendments expanded the list of major life activities to include eating. While many parents take exception to the label ‘disability’, we’ve found that the benefits of having a 504 Plan in school include inclusion and safety. The old idea of having Mom ask the teacher nicely to not have allergens in the classroom is passe. If your child needs accommodations such as a peanut-free classroom, get it in writing in a 504 Plan. If another parent or child takes exception to the peanut-free classroom, they can deal with the principal of the school. As a food allergy parent, you shouldn’t have to deal with an upset parent who can’t send in Snickers bars for a classroom treat. That’s the job of the school principal. This keeps you and your child anonymous, and therefore much less likely to be bullied.
- The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) is a Federal law that protects the privacy of student educational records. A school employee cannot tell ‘everyone’ about your child’s food allergy. In fact, the school employee will only tell those who need to know – for example, the school nurse, principal, teacher(s). Additionally, it has been our experience that not every parent and child in your school needs to know that your child has a food allergy. Telling close friends is important. The old idea of having Mom stand up in front of the entire school to tell everyone that your child has a food allergy is not only not helpful, but can be harmful for your child if it puts a target on him or her. Again, keeping your child’s food allergy on a ‘need to know basis’ keeps your child anonymous and much less likely to be bullied.
- Educate yourself about your state’s anti-bullying law and your school district’s anti-bullying policy. Every state, except for Montana, has some type of school anti-bullying law. These laws could certainly be widened to cover food allergy bullying specifically. When Morgan was bullied in first grade by another first grade boy waving a cracker saying “I’m going to kill you with this peanut butter cracker” the incident was taken seriously as a bullying incident. Within one hour, the ‘bully’ was suspended from school by the principal. His parents were brought into school and educated about food allergies. This was in 2002, long before there was food allergy awareness. Our school district has an anti-bullying policy, and our principal followed that policy. It made no difference that the offending item was food – the behavior was bullying.
We need to have accurate statistics – not just self-reporting.
Colorado captures bullying statistics based upon any child that is in a ‘protected class’ (race, color, religion, disability, sexual preference, etc.) I’ve spoken with the Director of Legal Relations for our school district who stated that with disability as a protected class in Colorado, a child with food allergy who is bullied in school, should have a report sent to the state detailing the bullying incident. There is more work to be done to educate the educators about food allergy as a disability, and therefore as a protected class. The research cited above about the statistics of Food Allergy Bullying are all based upon self-reporting or parent-reporting. I’d much prefer to have exact statistics rather than self-reporting which tend to overstate what is occurring. Again, this creates fear for parents of children with food allergy, who end up believing that their child has a much higher chance to be bullied than what may be true.
We need to empower our children and quit the fear mongering.
My friend, Dana Gordin, wrote an article for Today Moms entitled “A Family’s Battle Against Food Allergy Bullying” where she discussed their family’s experience of empowerment. My son, Morgan, and I were interviewed for Health Day last year about the topic also. A quote from this article is a key part of the empowering solution: “The incident involving Morgan Smith, who is also allergic to tree nuts, sesame, fish and shellfish, was taken seriously at his school. The boy who chased Morgan was suspended for the day. He never bullied Morgan again, and the two even later became friends.”
My son never viewed the school cafeteria as a scary place. He wasn’t afraid of his classmates, nor was he afraid of his food allergies – even after he experienced anaphylaxis at age 10 to fish on a camping trip. We helped Morgan to make choices – safe choices – for his life. He viewed the bullying incident as a minor part of his childhood. After the bullying incident, we didn’t move to a new house, or pull Morgan out of school. In fact, he and ‘the bully’ became friends, and the boy became one of Morgan’s biggest advocates. This boy’s house was the only place Morgan could go for a sleepover, because the family understood food allergies so well. They are friends still today.
Morgan had other instances of children in grade school harassing him because of his food allergies. The school principal took those incidents seriously by calling in the parents and educating them, and by suspending a boy in 4th grade who wouldn’t move out of the peanut-free zone in the cafeteria with his Butterfinger bar. Our family continued to work with the school and school district to raise food allergy awareness. I sat on numerous committees within the school and PTO, and in the school district on the District Accountability Committee. This allowed other parents and district employees to get to know me. I became known as “The Food Allergy Lady.” I’ve certainly been called worse! When I suggested that a Food Allergy Task Force be created in our district to help increase food allergy awareness, the superintendent agreed. The Task Force continues to this day helping to ensure that the district guidelines for keeping food allergic children safe at school are followed, and that we continue to raise awareness about food allergies.
Morgan continued to self-advocate throughout elementary and middle school. Now in high school, he teaches his friends how to operate an EpiPen, how to help keep him safe during lunch and on overnight trips with his high school Speech/Debate team. Morgan isn’t afraid of living. He has food allergies, but his food allergies don’t have him.
Empower your children. Utilize the laws available for your child with food allergies. Don’t buy into the fear. Believe in the power of forgiveness. A bully might become your child’s friend and a food allergy advocate!
Food Allergy Bullying: How to Spot It and Actions to Take
It’s the kind of story that leaves parents of food-allergic children nervous and baffled – a schoolyard bully has been seen waving an allergen-filled sandwich in a vulnerable kid’s face.
Studies have found that about one-third of children and teens with food allergies are bullied, simply because of this condition. Definitions of bullying vary, but children report they’ve been taunted, teased, threatened and, in some cases, had life-threatening allergens thrust in their faces, or even slipped into their lunch boxes surreptitiously.
The threatening behavior was mostly likely to happen at school, with classmates as the perpetrators – although in a minority of cases, school staff were also faulted for teasing or singling out.
A wakeup call came in a 2013 Mount Sinai Medical Center study. It found that almost half of parents were unaware their children felt they had been bullied due to their allergies. Families are wise to ready themselves to counter allergy bullying, given its frequency.
The repercussions for children targeted by bullies can be substantial. Not only could they potentially consume a life-threatening allergen, researchers have found children who are targeted by bullies have higher levels of anxiety and a lower quality of life. (They did fare better when their parents were aware of the bullying). Surveys also have revealed that children receiving unwanted attention about their allergies had more trouble managing the allergy, and were less likely to wear medical identification.
To gain insights, Allergic Living asked two experts who work with allergic children and teens what families can do to manage the risks of food allergy bullying at school and online.
How to Spot if Your Child is Being BulliedDr. Eyal Shemesh of Mount Sinai in New York
Research shows that kids don’t always know what constitutes “bullying.”
Herbert directs the psychosocial clinical program at Children’s National Hospital’s allergy and immunology division in Washington, D.C. She suggests asking kids how their day was, who they ate lunch with, or whether there were any surprises in their day.
Herbert’s research shows you may have to ask kids about their interactions in different ways to discover whether there’s a problem.
“Kids don’t always understand what bullying behavior is and isn’t. Ask open questions like, ‘How was your day today? Who did you have lunch with today? Did you have any surprise activities?” she says.
Download Link: AL’s Bullying Handout
Dr. Eyal Shemesh, a pediatrician and psychiatrist at the school of medicine at New York’s Mount Sinai Medical Center, asks all his patients with food allergies about their experiences with other children. “Does anyone give you a hard time about your allergies? Who did you tell?” he will say. Parents can try these questions, too.
Teenagers can be less forthcoming to their parents about taunting or threats. If you are concerned and your child seems to be tight-lipped, your teen’s friends or their parents could be sources of information about what’s going on at school.
How to Help If Your Child Is Bullied
- First, record the details of any bullying incidents. Investigate by calmly asking the basics: when and where did the incidents happen, who was present, and what did they do or say? Did any adults witness this?
- If physically threatened with an allergenic food, a child should be taught to run away to avoid a dangerous situation, says Shemesh. But taught as well to tell an adult immediately.
- Take the lead: surveys suggest that most kids do report allergy bullying. Once adults find out about it, Shemesh says it’s incumbent on them, not the child, to recreate a safe environment.
- Reassure your child the bullying is not their fault, and that you will help them through it, Herbert says. If the bullying is ongoing, validate your child’s feelings. Say that it’s normal to feel sad and angry or scared when someone is threatening you. Herbert practices role-playing scenarios with kids anxious about allergy bullying.
- Encourage spending time with friends who make your child feel confident and comfortable.
Both experts say to advise a child not to fight back – even they want to. They should try to avoid showing emotion to the bully, and instead let adults know what happened right away.
How to Talk to School Staff
Once you’ve heard from your child, contact the school principal or vice principal. In a serious situation, do so immediately. Herbert says to ask for a copy of the bullying policy and provide the specifics of the incident (written as well as verbal). If there are texts, photos or notes from a bully, provide those as well.
Schools usually take reports of bullying seriously, and will speak to a child accused of bullying and that child’s parents. Allergic Living notes that the school’s response will depend on the seriousness of the incident. It could range from discussion to educate the bully, to a suspension, or even to contacting police. In successful anti-bullying programs, the emphasis is usually on helping the bullied child, re-educating the bully, and preventing future situations through anti-bullying programs that involve the whole school population.
Prevention ApproachesLinda Herbert, PhD, of Children’s National Health System in Washington
Once a student is a pre-teen or a teen, Herbert’s view is that not everyone in class needs to know about that student’s food allergies. Teachers can make general announcements about keeping specific foods out of classrooms without identifying the student. This may help to prevent them becoming a target.
Schools should create a culture of safety where students are encouraged to report any threatening behavior, says Shemesh – it’s not “tattling” if a classmate is being put at risk.
With most kids toting around smartphones, popular apps like Snapchat have become the new domain for inappropriate messages, away from prying adults’ eyes. Some abusive messages can even be sent anonymously, making them hard to source.
Fortunately, teens can’t wave a peanut or a piece of cheese in your child’s face through the phone. If threats or teasing come online, Herbert says similar advice applies – walk away. Document the incident by taking screen captures of any messages, and note the time and date.
Kids should also report online threats to adults – some schools include online harassment in their bullying policies, even if it happens outside of school hours.
The Why of It
Why are children with food allergy an easy target? Unlike kids who appear ill with a disease like cancer, allergies are an invisible health problem until a child has a reaction.
“It’s silent. It’s not noticeable,” says Herbert. “And so it can be hard to convince people that it’s actually a significant concern.”
I wish there was a vaccine for serious food allergies
All the science and technology that has gone into the COVID vaccine has been remarkable this year and it’s wonderful but I can’t help but wistfully think how life changing it would be for those of us with serious food allergies to have a vaccine. I’d sign up in a heartbeat.
A freaking crumb of a silly common little legume can put us in the hospital and to be honest my food allergic reactions are almost a bigger threat to my health (and I say this as someone who is vaccinated, has taken proper precautions and takes the virus seriously- I am not meaning to minimize the seriousness of COVID at all).
I wish there was an investment in technology of some sort (perhaps founded by a super rich Elon musk type who wants to help because he also has deadly allergies, lol) and that it could be possible to program (reprogram, really- the opposite of how the MRNA vaccines work) our cells to not attack certain food proteins. Can you imagine the freedom we would feel and all the parents out there who wouldn’t have to worry about their kids?! It makes me emotional to think about.
Food Allergy Bullying at School is on the Rise
JACKSON Tichenor was scared. The fourth grader from Stillwater, Minnesota, was walking back to class after lunch when a couple of students ran up to him. “We ate peanuts! We ate peanut M&M’s. And we’re going to breathe on you!” they said. As they leaned in, Jackson, 10, thought the peanuts could trigger an allergic reaction, and that no one would know how to help.
He fled to find the school nurse – as his mom had told him to do if he ever felt unsafe at school.
Cheryl Dorsey was volunteering on a first-grade field trip with her daughter Anna’s class in Huntington Beach, California, when a girl took a sandwich from her lunch bag and waved it in Anna’s face.
‘I Brought Peanut Butter!’
“I brought peanut butter you can’t eat peanut butter!” she chanted. Shaken, Dorsey quickly moved her daughter, who is allergic to dairy, peanuts, tree nuts and sunflower seeds, to a picnic spot away from her classmates. And then she quietly told the other girl, “It is not nice to bully people.”
Bullying isn’t nice, and can be downright dangerous when it’s coupled with the risk of anaphylaxis, a life-threatening condition that can be set off by trace amounts and accidental ingestion. A study published in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology in October 2010 found that an astounding one in three children with food allergies has experienced bullying, harassment or teasing because of their allergies – most of it occurring in the supposed safety of school.
From the humiliation of taunts like “peanut kid” to the terror of an allergic reaction, the emotional impact of bullying just adds to the stress carried by allergic kids – and their parents. What’s more, says the survey’s lead author, Dr. Scott Sicherer, comparison to an earlier study showed that food-allergic children in Grades 6 to 10 were more than twice as likely to be bullied as non-allergic students.
While the prevalence of allergy bullying seems high, it didn’t surprise Sicherer, an allergist and professor of pediatrics with the Jaffe Food Allergy Institute at New York’s Mount Sinai School of Medicine. He has been hearing bullying stories for years from the kids and parents he sees in his practice. Sicherer even speculates that, since the roughly 350 responses to the survey were almost entirely from parents, there may be even more incidents than the data captured, as some kids don’t tell.
(The survey grouped the terms bullying, harassment and teasing in order to cover the big picture, so it did not isolate bullying in its specific sense: repeated behavior that is intended to harm, occurring where there is an imbalance of power. However, the survey did find that the behavior was repeated in 86 percent of cases.)
Despite the numbers, the deliberate targeting of kids with food allergies seems to slip under the radar of many in the education system. We raised the question with about a dozen experts from across North America, including teachers, principals, an anti-bullying parent advocate, a school board trustee, and a safe-schools supervisor. All were highly aware of both anaphylaxis and bullying issues, but none had heard of the link between the two.
Ask someone in the allergy community, however, and the floodgates open. Parents have traded harrowing stories on the Allergic Living Facebook page: a bully licking an allergic child’s pencils and erasers after consuming an allergen one child chasing another with his allergen students handing out a packaged snack in class and refusing to let an allergic child read the label. Staffers at the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network (now known as FARE) and at Anaphylaxis Canada also report hearing numerous stories of bullying.
Allergy Bullying Causes
So why are allergic kids targeted? Bullying is typically driven by an intolerance toward difference, a sense of entitlement or the liberty to exclude others, according to Barbara Coloroso, the renowned parenting expert and best-selling anti-bullying author. A food allergy certainly makes a child different, and the difference is emphasized by the necessary routine precautions, like carrying an auto-injector and reading food labels, which are part of these kids’ lives.
Sicherer speculates that curiosity may be a factor in bullying by younger children who are told their classmate could get very sick from eating peanuts – yet he looks perfectly normal.
That’s how Jackson’s mom, Lisa Tichenor, sees the motivation of the kids who threatened her son. “I think that those children were truly curious,” she says. “They don’t get it. They don’t get that people can really get sick or worse if something like that happens.”
Coloroso, however, stresses that curiosity does not make the behavior innocent. “Waving a peanut butter sandwich in front of somebody and laughing at it is bullying. It’s cruel. It’s wanting to cause them pain,” says the Colorado-based author of The Bully, the Bullied and the Bystander who is also a special-education teacher and has dealt with allergy bullying in her classroom.
Coloroso says the responsibility for bullying behavior by kids belongs to the grownups. She puts it simply: “We as adults have not given them good instructions” – by which she means respect, acceptance of differences and what she calls “deep caring.”
Indeed, you don’t need to look far to find examples of grownups having trouble accepting allergy differences. In one case that made headlines in 2011, some parents picketed their school in Edgewater, Florida, to protest that measures to protect one allergic student were causing unnecessary disruptions for other kids. While there will always be debate over where to draw the allergy safety line, it’s not hard to see where some kids pick up the idea that singling out allergic classmates is OK.
When Teacher is a Bully
Adding to that influence is the occasional insensitive (and sometimes intentional) remark by a teacher or other adult who singles out an allergic child for spoiling the fun: “We can’t have cake at our party because Teddy is allergic, so we’ll just have juice instead.” The bullying survey found that a shocking 21 percent of incidents were attributed to teachers or other school staff.
In cafeterias and other spaces where kids and food mix at school, arrangements and supervision vary among jurisdictions and among schools. There’s no single way to ensure safety for allergic children, says Chris Weiss, the former vice-president of advocacy and government relations at FAAN, and a co-author of the bullying survey. “A lot of it depends on the age of the kids, the configuration of a cafeteria, the size of the staff,” Weiss says.
Some schools ask all students to keep lunches and snacks peanut- and nut-free this is more likely to be the case in the jurisdictions that have legislation (such as New York, New Jersey or Ontario, Canada) or guidelines for managing anaphylaxis in schools. In schools where peanuts and nuts are allowed, the most common lunchroom arrangement seems to be a designated table for allergic kids. In other schools, children eat in their classrooms.
No setting is bully-proof, but close supervision by trained adults helps most, as Tracie Michelson learned when a kindergarten classmate ate peanut butter (which he wasn’t supposed to have) then ran over to breathe on her son Zach, who was sitting at the allergen-free table at his school near Nashville, Tennessee.
The teacher assistants who normally watched over the lunchroom were busy that week supervising standardized testing, so the job had fallen to parent volunteers. Michelson won’t take that chance again Zach will eat in the principal’s office next time the regular lunchroom supervisors are not on duty.
Fear and Consequences
All bullying is serious, but when an anaphylactic child is targeted, of course, the results can be life-threatening. In the survey, more than half of those who reported bullying said it got physical, with acts such as waving or throwing the allergen at the allergic child. Fortunately, none of these incidents resulted in an anaphylactic reaction.
Still, the fear is real responses to the survey showed that, in over 60 percent of the cases, bullying made the victims feel sad or depressed, as well as humiliated or embarrassed. Other research has shown the prolonged effects bullying can have kids, including depression, low self-esteem and social withdrawal. Tracie Michelson’s son was afraid to go to school the day after he was threatened.
Perhaps more worrying, older kids who are targeted may try to hide their allergies by not carrying an auto-injector, says Kyle Dine, who coordinates the youth advisory panel at Food Allergy Canada. “Especially with that teenage group, they don’t want to be embarrassed they just want to fit in and be like all their friends.”
What Should Parents Do?
There’s no magic bullet to prevent or resolve bullying, but there’s a lot of consensus on what helps. And while anaphylaxis is an unwanted difference that can make kids a target, it’s never a good idea to hide or downplay that difference. In fact, the experts interviewed for this article were unanimous that the more everyone around your child knows about her allergy, the safer she’ll be.
Another unanimous point: Dealing with bullying is mostly the responsibility of adults we shouldn’t expect the victims to handle it all by themselves.
Steps for Parents to Take:
Know what’s going on – Staying aware of what’s happening in your child’s life is not a problem for many parents of allergic kids, who tend to be highly involved at school, especially in the early years and on field trips.
But as your child grows older and you start to give him a little more space, he may not tell you if he’s being bullied kids can be embarrassed or they may think no one can help anyway. So how do you know?
Coloroso says a child who is being bullied may show a sudden lack of interest in school or even refuse to go his grades may drop he may stop talking about peers and everyday activities, and may complain of stomach aches or headaches his sleep patterns may change and he may withdraw from family time and other social activities.
It’s key to keep the lines of communication open with older kids, and direct interrogation is likely to make them clam up, says Sean Breen, a 21-year-old with anaphylactic allergies who endured a handful of bullying incidents during his school years in suburban Toronto. Breen encourages parents of teens to keep conversations frequent and casual, and listen carefully for hints that your child may need help.
Support your child – Your child needs an action plan in case of bullying or otherwise being made to feel unsafe Jackson Tichenor knew, for example, that he should go to the school nurse. You’ll likely need to talk about the plan over and over make sure your child understands that bullying needs to be reported to a trusted adult.
If your child is bullied, Coloroso says, she needs a strong and clear message that you believe in her, and that it’s not her fault. Breen echoes that, advising parents not to second-guess how their child has responded. “Being told, ‘You didn’t handle that properly,’ won’t help. And it won’t make you do it right the next time,” he says.
Work with your school – The best action on bullying is, of course, preventing it. And the obvious first step is working with your school to raise awareness of anaphylaxis – including the risk of bullying. (See our newer article: “Allergy Bullying: How to Spot It and Actions to Take”.) Like Dorsey, many parents of children at risk of anaphylaxis volunteer regularly.
It’s also a good idea to get informed about anti-bullying programs and policies at your school and at the board or district level, as well as procedures for handling an incident. But say you’ve done all this, and still your child is victimized. If the teacher and principal are not already aware, you need to tell them. That goes for cyber-bullying too. The more specific you can be about what happened, the better.
With bullying high on the radar of most educators, you should expect the school to take it seriously and act with appropriate consequences. Coloroso says it’s wrong for anyone to try to minimize or explain away the behavior. Experts stress that ending bullying is an adult job because of the power imbalance. The child who is victimized can’t always extricate herself from the situation, and trying make the bullying stop without adult involvement may only make it worse.
While thankfully, uncommon, principals need to know when bullying crosses into criminal assault. For example, a teen in Wenatchee, Washington, was sentenced to four days in jail in 2008 for smearing peanut butter on the forehead of a fellow student who had an anaphylactic allergy. And the same year, police in Lexington, Kentucky, arrested a 13-year-old after she sprinkled peanut butter cookie crumbs in the lunchbox of a student with severe allergies.
Lisa Tichenor was pleased with the principal’s decisive action when her son was threatened. “(The perpetrators) were given such a talking to that they were really scared they apologized and they never did it again. Nothing like that has ever happened again.”
Keep friends close – If there’s good news from parents whose anaphylactic kids have been bullied, it’s how their children’s friends and classmates rallied around. In many cases, another child tells the bully to back off or runs for the teacher. As one mother wrote on the Allergic Living Facebook page, “Teachers aren’t always there to witness something said or done, but there is always another kid there to speak up!”
Breen says watchful friends become even more important as allergic teens’ social lives evolve. “I’ve got some friends who get more anxious than I do about the whole peanut thing. Sometimes I have to tell them it’s fine, calm down. But it’s nice to know these people have your back.”
Teach caring – Overcoming the intolerance that leads to bullying is something every adult can work towards with the children around them. Coloroso sees it as adults’ duty to teach kids about respecting differences and embracing our common humanity, and about accepting one another. And acceptance is more than just tolerating somebody the goal to her is “deep caring,” a drive to be kind, compassionate and loving.
“We have to model the behavior,” she says, “but we also have to talk about it. I might say to a child, ‘No, we’re not going to bring Mama’s favorite peanut butter dessert – because someone’s going to be there who can’t be around peanuts, because it makes them very, very ill.’”
Fortunately – and this is important, to keep bullying in perspective – many children embrace the caring that Coloroso talks about. Bullies are the exception, while compassionate, sensitive kids are far more numerous.
Does Blue Buffalo dog food have lead in it?
If you have a dog that seems to be anxious all the time and doesn’t like to eat when you give it food or becomes clingy and snuggle with you when you are around, you may want to check your dog’s food for lead.
It is best to find out as soon as possible if your dog has been exposed to any lead poisoning. Knowing this can help you stop the exposure.
What you need to do is to change your dog’s normal dog food for an organic, GMO free dog food.
You also need to add herbs and green vegetables to your dog’s diet. Also, make sure that you are using a good dog bedding like pongee.
However, even with this, your dog will probably continue to be anxious and clingy.
You will want to also increase the amount of fresh fruits and vegetables in your dog’s diet.
Also, make sure that you are giving your dog plenty of water. If your dog is consuming too much, this can actually cause diarrhea in your dog. This may not be too fun for your dog and can cause discomfort for you.
Some people think that canned dog food does not have lead in it, but it can sometimes have lead in it.
Some canned foods will use a byproduct from the manufacturing process called-made-in-China (BIC) food.
While this type of food is fine for your dog, it can contain pesticide residues and BPA. In fact, some studies suggest that some of these BIC foods actually contain higher levels of lead than traditional non-organic canned foods.
One concern is that using organic foods like Blue Buffalo dog food with BIC ingredients might be dangerous to your dog.
While there are many other brands of non-organic canned foods available, we have found Blue Buffalo is among the best.
You also want to look for a food that is certified organic. You can check with your local USDA/ARS office to see if your dog food meets the certification standards for organic.
When you choose Blue Buffalo food you will have the assurance that your dog will not be exposed to lead. You can be assured that your dog is getting the best nutrition that it needs, plus all the antioxidants and vitamins that your dog needs.
Food Allergy Advocates Work Together to Stop Food Allergy Bullying
Campaign Aims to Elevate Attention about Food Allergy Bullying, Underscore Seriousness of Issue, Encourage Tolerance
Richmond, VA (October 24, 2017) – kaléo, along with the four major advocacy organizations focused on life-threatening allergies, today announced a new initiative, No Appetite for Bullying, to raise awareness about the prevalence and potential dangers of food allergy bullying. Food allergy bullying happens when children and teens living with life-threatening food allergies are teased, ridiculed, or even threatened or assaulted with food to which they are severely allergic. This is the first time the Allergy & Asthma Network (the Network), Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Connection Team (FAACT), Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE) and Kids with Food Allergies (KFA) are supporting a national anti-bullying campaign.
“Each of our individual organizations have taken strides to end food allergy bullying,” said Eleanor Garrow-Holding, President & CEO, FAACT. “But together, we can have a bigger voice and a bigger impact on the issue. I personally have witnessed food allergy bullying as my son was bullied due to his food allergies, and it’s imperative we join together as there needs to be zero tolerance for bullying across the board.”
“Bullying is never okay. It is hurtful, cruel, even dangerous,” said Lynda Mitchell, Founder of KFA. “Unfortunately, children who live with food allergies are susceptible to bullying – not only from their peers, but sometimes even from adults in their lives who don’t understand the gravity of food allergies.”
kaléo commissioned an omnibus survey of 1,000 parents of children currently in elementary through high school, including 750 parents of children without life-threatening allergies (LTAs) and 250 parents of children with LTAs to unearth gaps in knowledge and perceptions that exist around food allergy bullying. According to the survey, 82 percent of parents of children with LTAs that believe children are bullied due to food allergies think that their child has been bullied because of their allergies. However, nearly 80 percent of parents of children without LTAs surveyed indicated that they don’t think food allergies are a reason children are bullied. The survey also found that nearly 9 out of 10 parents that believe children are bullied due to food allergies think that if food allergy bullying happens, kids/classmates are participating in the bullying, followed by athletic coaches (42%), school caretakers (39%), or other parents (34%).
“While programs and resources have become available to address other forms of bullying, they rarely call attention to food allergy bullying, which can potentially be deadly,” said Tonya Winders, President and CEO, the Network. “That’s why we are proud to collaborate with our other advocacy partners and kaléo to help raise awareness of this dangerous form of bullying.”
No Appetite for Bullying is a multi-year anti-food allergy bullying initiative to elevate attention to food allergy bullying with the goal of creating solutions that foster tolerance and understanding. The goal is to clearly convey the potential seriousness of food allergies and create a movement that encourages children with food allergies, along with parents, teachers and peers, to be a voice against food allergy bullying. To ensure that the project is relatable to children and teens, a No Appetite for Bullying Teen Coalition will bring together students between the ages of 13 and 17 to share experiences, provide support, and discuss solutions to help end food allergy bullying. In addition, we are calling for food allergy bullying stories to be shared with us so we can help bring the issue to life.
“In recent years, FARE has led efforts to draw attention to the very real problem of food allergy bullying, and we are pleased to be a part of this new initiative that includes students directly affected by food allergy bullying in the conversation,” said Lois A. Witkop, Chief Advancement Officer at FARE. “Food allergies are nothing to joke about.”
“As a committed member of the LTA community, kaléo hopes to foster a safe and accepting environment for students who live with food allergies,” said Evan Edwards, Vice President - Innovation, Development and Industrialization at kaléo. “This includes elevating awareness of food allergy-related bullying and offering educational resources to help stop it, as well as educating the general public about LTAs.
Take Action to Stop Bullying
Ultimately, it&aposs up to parents to help young child deal with a bully. Help him learn how to make smart choices and take action when he feels hurt or see another child being bullied, and be ready to intervene if necessary.
Report Repeated, Severe Bullying
If your child is reluctant to report the bullying, go with him to talk to a teacher, guidance counselor, principal, or school administrator. Learn about the school&aposs policy on bullying, document instances of bullying and keep records, and stay on top of the situation by following up with the school to see what actions are being taken. When necessary, get help from others outside of school, like a family therapist or a police officer, and take advantage of community resources that can deal with and stop bullying.
Encourage Your Child to Be an Upstander
Being an upstander (and not a passive bystander) means a child takes positive action when she sees a friend or another student being bullied. Ask your child how it feels to have someone stand up for her, and share how one person can make a difference. "When it&aposs the kids who speak up, it&aposs ten times more powerful than anything that we&aposll ever be able to do as an adult," says Walter Roberts, a professor of counselor education at Minnesota State University, Mankato and author of Working With Parents of Bullies and Victims.
Contact the Offender's Parents
This is the right approach only for persistent acts of intimidation, and when you feel these parents will be receptive to working in a cooperative manner with you. Call or e-mail them in a non-confrontational way, making it clear that your goal is to resolve the matter together. You might say something like:
"I&aposm phoning because my daughter has come home from school feeling upset every day this week. She tells me that Suzy has called her names and excluded her from games at the playground. I don&apost know whether Suzy has mentioned any of this, but I&aposd like us to help them get along better. Do you have any suggestions?"
Partner with Your School
Communicate with your child&aposs school and report bullying incidences. "You can&apost expect the school staff to know everything that&aposs going on. Make them aware of any situations," Kaplan says. Though more schools are implementing bullying prevention programs, many still do not have enough support or resources. "Parents and teachers need to be aware and get involved so that they can monitor it appropriately," Dr. Pastyrnak says. Learn how to start anti-bullying and anti-violence programs within the school curriculum.
Teach Coping Skills
If your child is being bullied, remind her that it&aposs not her fault, she is not alone, and you are there to help. It&aposs important for kids to identify their feelings so they can communicate what&aposs going on therefore, parents should talk about their own feelings. What parents shouldn&apost do, no matter the child&aposs age, is assume that this is normal peer stuff that will work itself out.
"It should never be accepted that a child is being picked on or teased," Kaplan advises. Helping your child deal with a bully will build confidence and prevent a difficult situation from escalating.