Almost Half of Children With Food Allergy Report Being Bullied

In just over half of cases parents knew about bullying; knowledge tied to improved quality of life

WEDNESDAY, Dec. 26 (HealthDay News) -- For children with food allergy, bullying is common, and correlates with decreased quality of life and increased distress for children and their parents, according to a study published online Dec. 24 in Pediatrics.

Eyal Shemesh, M.D., from the Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City, and colleagues recruited 251 patient and parent pairs during allergy clinic visits to quantify the extent, methods, and correlates of bullying among children with food allergies.

The researchers found that 45.4 and 36.3 percent of children and parents, respectively, reported bullying or harassment for no reason, and 31.5 and 24.7 percent, respectively, reported that bullying was specifically related to food allergies. This often included threats with food, mainly by classmates. There were significant associations for bullying with reduced quality of life and increased distress in both parents and children, which was unrelated to the severity of the allergy. Increased frequency of bullying correlated with poorer quality of life. In 52.1 percent of cases, parents knew about the child-reported bullying; parental knowledge correlated with improved quality of life and less distress for children.

"We found that bullying is a significant problem in children with food allergy who were seen in our clinic," the authors write. "There is a need to increase the likelihood that children disclose bullying; clinicians might consider asking a screening question about bullying during encounters with children with food allergy."

One author is a consultant for the Food Allergy Initiative and is an advisor for the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network.

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