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How to Protect Kids with Food & Milk Allergies from Bullying

Many people may not understand how severe an allergic reaction can potentially be, and bullying may have serious and even life-threatening consequences for a child with food allergies. In fact, studies have shown that about one-third of kids with food allergies report being bullied because of their food allergies.

Bullying is not acceptable. It can make school feel like an unsafe place and can quickly escalate from teasing to physical bullying and assault unless steps are taken to address the situation properly.

Studies show that many children with food allergies experience emotional and psychological challenges that result from bullying, which can then lead to anxiety, depression and even suicidal thoughts.

These feelings can also lead to inhibitions around making safe choices and protecting themselves from allergen exposures and potential reactions.  This can include behaviors such as choosing not to read ingredient labels, making unsafe food choices or even downplaying an allergic reaction in order to avoid drawing attention to themselves.

The most serious form of bullying can include intentionally exposing a child to the food that they are allergic to, which can lead to anaphylaxis, a life-threatening allergic reaction. With this form of bullying, the bullies may hide the problem allergen in safe foods, smear it on their skin or even throw food at a child with food allergies.

For children with severe allergies, symptoms – such as trouble breathing, vomiting, hives and swelling – can start quickly after being exposed to the allergen. If symptoms become severe, it is critical to treat the child with epinephrine (epi pen) or visit the emergency room. For this reason, it is imperative for children with severe food allergies to carry two epi pens.

While less physically harmful, bullies can also verbally threaten or tease kids with the problem food. This type of emotional abuse may be just as serious if it goes unchecked and continues. Children experiencing this type of bullying may have difficulty coping with stress and fear and over the long-term, they may struggle from the emotional distress they are experiencing.

Parents, caregivers and schools must take action to prevent bullying, which can be challenging since most kids do not tell their parents when they are being bullied.

How to Talk to Your Child About Food Allergy Bullying

How you talk to kids about bullying can make a difference and help them open up so that you have an opportunity to offer support.

Asking kids specifically if someone has teased them or even excluded them because of their allergies, may elicit more information on what they deal with in their daily lives. As they share information, pay particularly close attention to any changes in mood or insights on how they are handling the situation from an emotional perspective.

Experts recommend asking open-ended questions, such as:

  • Tell me about the kids at your school. Do you ever talk to them about your food allergies? And if so, what do they say? How do they react? Do your friends support you? How do they support you?
  • Have you ever had difficulties dealing with your food allergies while at school? What has been most challenging? Is there anything that I can do to best support you? Is there anything your friends can do to help you?

Talking with your child is the first step for understanding what the situation is at school when you are not present. If your child shares any signs that they are being teased or bullied, help them recognize behavior that is not acceptable and how to best handle these situations. You may even want to try role playing to see how they would handle challenging scenarios.

If your child does not open up but you suspect problems, you may want to watch for signs of bullying including reluctance to go to school or avoiding riding the bus, depression or mood changes, and struggles with grades and completing assignments.

How to Advocate for Your Child

It can be helpful to establish allies at the school, including your child’s teachers, school staff and bus driver to ask them to watch for teasing and bullying incidents. It is important that they understand the potential severity of food allergy reactions if they are exposed to problem foods.

Kids with Food Allergies also recommends raising awareness by sharing their Teal Classroom™ Kit with your child’s teachers and school staff. The kit includes food allergy awareness lesson plans, encourages food-free celebrations and promotes inclusion.

You can also talk to your child about what to do if they experience bullying and let them know that they can talk to a trusted adult to help figure out how to handle the situation and ensure it does not continue.  with food allergies report that they have been bullied because of their allergies. The “It’s Not a Joke” campaign can help you learn more about food allergies and how In addition, it is important to be an advocate for all kids with food allergies. Food allergy organizations offer a variety of tools and resources to support your efforts.

  • FARE “It’s Not a Joke” Public Service Announcement: FARE created this PSA to help raise awareness about the seriousness of food allergies and the dangers of food allergy bullying. This PSA is intended to raise awareness of food allergies and anaphylaxis, as well as help adults and teens across the country understand they can play an important role in preventing food allergy bullying.
  • Kids with Food Allergies “No Appetite for Bullying” Campaign: Kids With Food Allergies (KFA)—a division of AAFA—is proud to supportNo Appetite for Bullyinga campaign to raise awareness about food allergy bullying. The Campaign includes a Teen Coalition to 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, they are collecting testimonials to help bring the issue to life.
  • The Federal Government provides recommendations on how to handle cyberbullying, including these tips as well as a form to report the behavior.

How Cambrooke Can Support Your Child

Cambrooke offers two hypoallergenic amino acid-based formulas for children over the age of one year, designed to support the needs of children with food allergies and digestive disorders. Both formulas can be mixed and placed in your choice of drinking container so they may be consumed discreetly by your child in a variety of environments to support optimal nutrition.

Essential Care Jr. is free of corn, soy, and artificial ingredients and was developed to provide optimal nutrition for those in need of a junior amino acid-based formula.

EquaCare Jr. is similar in nutrition and taste to other junior amino acid-based formulas; however, it is designed to provide you with a more affordable price than other formulas when the cost is a concern.

You may want to talk to a pediatrician or specialist to find out which formula option is best for your child. Learn more about each of these beneficial products by visiting us online today or calling 1-833-377-2773.