Bullying comes in the form of teasing, mocking, intentional exclusion from a group or group activities, and can escalate to physical confrontations.
Owen Kellogg, who suffers from food allergies, first experienced bullying over his affliction when he was in kindergarten, according to Healthcollege. A classmate threatened Owen, saying he’d force him eat a peanut. Owen is especially allergic to tree nuts as well as peanuts, and knew ingesting one could be harmful, potentially inhibiting him from breathing.
When the issue was addressed with the school administration the bully was removed and placed in another classroom.
An allergy is a hypersensitivity disorder of the immune system, where an exaggerated and undesirable histamine response occurs. Exposure to an allergen can have life-threatening consequences. Severe allergies can result in anaphylaxis, an emergency situation requiring immediate attention and treatment with epinephrine. Anaphylactic shock can have a rapid onset of symptoms, within mere seconds, including an itchy rash, throat swelling, and low blood pressure.
Haylee Kellogg, Owen’s mother, knows how difficult it is to monitor food allergies, especially when children go to school. At school there are multiple opportunities to come into contact with unsafe snacks. The Kellogg’s moved from one school district to another in order to find one willing to provide peanut-free accommodations, eliminating all foods containing peanuts from the school’s meals and snacks.
Owen is now 7, but that does not negate him from experiencing another incident of bullying over his sensitivity. Time Magazine published a study suggesting that many children with food allergies are bullied, physically and verbally taunted, often times pelted with food or ostracized.
The Kellogg’s knew another young girl, Grace, who also had several types of food allergies. She too had experienced verbal and physical abuse as a result. One boy in her class often chased her with peanut butter, touching her once with it, and making her break-out in hives. Grace, 11, spent lunch periods eating hers in the principal’s office, in order to avoid the days where peanut products were being distributed in the cafeteria.
As many as 8 percent of children suffer some kind of food related allergy, for which there is no real cure. Treatment requires avoiding allergens, vigilantly monitoring their food preparation, and knowing the signs of anaphylaxis in the event they need to seek medical attention.
Bullying can result in lowered self-esteem, lack of confidence, isolation, depression, and reduced academic performance.