A recent study conducted at BC Children’s Hospital Allergy Clinic shows that one in five children and teens with food allergies are bullied—most of them repeatedly. The study involved 110 children and teenagers ages five to 17 with confirmed food allergies.
Dr. Edmond Chan, head of the Allergy Clinic at BC Children’s Hospital, head of the Division of Allergy & Immunology, Department of Pediatrics, Faculty of Medicine, Clinical Associate Professor at the University of British Columbia, and senior author of the study, found that medical identification was worn by only 24.5 per cent of participants, and 16.3 per cent reported not wearing medical identification due to the fear of being bullied.
“Medical identification helps people who care for children with allergies know how to respond to a child’s urgent medical needs,” said Dr. Chan. “In an emergency, time is of the essence and a personalized bracelet or necklace can signal a teacher or caregiver to give treatment like an EpiPen immediately.”
Over half of the bullying experienced by children and youth in the study was physical. Children reported being touched with the food they were allergic to and having it waved in their faces. One child was forced to eat the allergy-causing food. The majority of children who were bullied also said they experienced teasing and exclusion from activities because of their food allergies. Even though most bullying takes place in schools by classmates or other students, many teachers and parents remain unaware that bullying is taking place.
All cases of food allergy bullying are preventable. The study calls for an increased awareness among parents, caregivers, teachers and doctors that children with allergies are particularly vulnerable to bullying. Doctors who care for children with allergies may be in a unique position to help parents recognize the signs of bullying in their children and advocate for anti-bullying prevention and intervention programs.
This is the first study in Canada on bullying and food allergies, and the first to investigate the role of bullying on the decision to wear medical identification such as a bracelet or necklace. Learn more about how we help children with allergies by reading the full study.