August 26, 2013

Megan Brown
(414) 272-6071

New AAAAI Video Addresses Food Allergy Bullying

MILWAUKEE, WI – In addition to the serious risks posed by accidental exposure to their trigger foods, children with food allergy are often subjected to another serious risk—bullying. To coincide with the start of the school year, the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI) has a new food allergy bullying video on its website, which calls for collaboration between school staff, parents, students and healthcare providers to reduce the risk of bullying and keep school a safe and secure place of learning for all children.

What is bullying?
Bullying is unwanted, aggressive behavior that involves a real or perceived threat. It can be repeated over time and includes actions such as making threats, spreading rumors, attacking someone physically or verbally, or deliberately excluding someone from the group.

Why is food allergy bullying important to address?
In some cases, the danger presented by food allergy bullying goes beyond the emotional. It can result in serious allergic reactions.

An abstract presented at the 2010 AAAAI Annual Meeting  examined trends in bullying among children with food allergy.1 In the survey, nearly 50% of the food allergic children ages 10 and older reported being bullied due to their food allergy. Of those affected, 86% reported multiple episodes. Almost 60% of children who reported being bullied said that they had been touched by their food allergen or harassed by the food allergen such as a child waving it in front of their face.

Over 80% of food allergy bullying episodes occurred in the school setting. Although most took place among classmates, 21% took place with teachers or other school staff.

What can be done?
There are ways that school staff, parents, students and healthcare providers can collaborate to reduce the risk of bullying and keep school a safe and secure place of learning for all children:
1.    Ensure that a comprehensive allergy management plan in is place in the school and that the school staff is aware of how to take care of the child in an allergic emergency.
2.    Educate students and staff about the seriousness of food allergy. When school staff and classmates understand what a food allergy is, they’re less likely to poke fun or cause a child with food allergy to be excluded because of their condition.
3.    Work with schools to implement a zero tolerance policy for bullying, not only for students but also for staff. Adults should be setting the example for students in the school setting.
4.    Provide affected children with adequate support networks and mental health services if needed.

Visit the AAAAI website for more new videos from the AAAAI. You can also find further information on food allergy.

The AAAAI represents allergists, asthma specialists, clinical immunologists, allied health professionals and others with a special interest in the research and treatment of allergic and immunologic diseases. Established in 1943, the AAAAI has more than 6,700 members in the United States, Canada and 60 other countries. The AAAAI’s Find an Allergist/Immunologist service is a trusted resource to help you find a specialist close to home.

1. J. Lieberman, C. Weiss, T.J. Furlong, S.H. Sicherer. Bullying of Pediatric Patients with Food Allergy. The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology 125(2), AB213. DOI: 10.1016/j.jaci.2009.12.833.


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