Living with food allergies can be tough, however when your child is being bullied over their food allergies, it really can be quite traumatic for both you, the parent and your precious child.
Back in 2017 there was the tragic case where a schoolboy with a dairy allergy was left gasping for breath and shouted “I’m going to die” minutes after a fellow pupil flicked cheese at him.
Karanbir Cheema, 13, went from “absolutely fine” to unconscious in under 10 minutes after the incident at a high school in Greenford, west London.
Sadly Karanbir died, and I’m sure you’d all agree that our thoughts are with his family.
Recent research shows that about one third of children with food allergies report that they’ve been bullied because of their allergies!
It’s also thought that there’s a higher number of children which haven’t reported that they’ve been bullied, or spoken out. So it is probably massively underreported.
These rates are very high, and we must raise awareness in the community to tackle this serious issue.
When we think of bullying we often just consider emotional and mental torment, however food allergy bullying can be much more serious and put children’s health at risk.
Very often other people may not understand how serious food allergies are, and what the serious consequences of bullying can lead to.
In some cases children have reported that others have intentionally exposed them to their food allergy, similar to the case with Karanbir.
This really is awful to think about, and if a child has a severe allergy, it can lead to anaphylaxis, a life-threatening allergic reaction.
Symptoms can occur quickly after contact with the allergen. It requires treatment right away and symptoms can include breathing difficulties, vomiting, hives, swelling of the lips, tongue or throat.
Anaphylaxis must be treated right away to provide the best chance for improvement and prevent serious, potentially life-threatening complications.
Reading this article may make you think, ‘I can’t believe that this could be happening,’ however the sad reality is that young children very often just don’t understand the serious consequences of food allergies.
Food allergy bullies may try to harm a child with food allergies by hiding the allergen in safe foods or trying to make them eat it.
They may also make threats to harm the child with thier allergen.
This experience can cause significant amounts of stress and anxiety for those children living with allergies.
There are a number of ways to respond to food allergy bullying, and each situation may require a different course of action.
We’ve listed some of the key measures below:
Kids often don’t understand what bullying is, and it’s so important to communicate with your child to explain what bullying looks like.
Make sure they know who they can report bullying to, and help them by suggesting an adult who can support them, such as a teacher or group leader.
If your child has a friend who has allergies, educate them about how serious allergies can be, and encourage them to care and show support to their allergic friends.
Sadly, children very often may be afraid to tell anyone, even parents, that they are being bullied.
It’s important to watch out for the following signs:
Look out for these signs, and if you notice anything unusual, talk with your child right away and ask them if everything is okay.
Talk to your child’s teacher about food allergy awareness in the classroom.
Make sure that the school fully understands the importance of allergy awareness, and adopts measures to keep the school environment safe.
Encourage the school to educate all pupils about allergies, and avoid alienating those living with allergies.
This may be a struggle depending on the school, but definitely worth the effort.
If you think that your child is affected by food allergy bullying, unfortunately you’re not the only one.
It’s important to reach out to support groups. There are some super charities including Natasha’s Allergy Research Foundation (@natashasfoundation), Allergy U.K (@allergy_uk), and Anaphylaxis U.K. (@anaphylaxis_campaign)
Speak up and help us raise awareness about food allergy bullying by telling your child’s story. We can all work together to make a meaningful difference, and make the community safer for those children with food allergies affected by bullying.
Take it easy and look after yourself … and each other!
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