As if it weren't bad enough that their bodies were waging a war of attrition with certain insidious nuts and dairy byproducts, a new survey from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai suggests that nearly a third of the eight percent of U.S. children diagnosed with food allergies are bullied in school. If you've ever ridiculed your friends' lactose intolerance or secretly spread peanut butter on their rice crackers when they weren't looking, now is the time to take a long, hard look in the mirror and ask yourself why you're such a monster.
The study, pithily titled "Child and Parental Reports of Bullying in a Consecutive Sample of Children with Food Allergy," was conducted at Mount Sinai under the direction of Eyal Shemesh, MD, Associate Professor of Pediatrics and Psychiatry at the Icahn School of Medicine. Shemesh and his team surveyed 251 pairs of parents and children who had been recruited during allergy clinic visits (when a serenely sadistic physician pricks your forearms full of allergen massage oils) to fill out a questionnaire. Questions evaluated bullying that was directly related to a child's food allergy, as well as the resulting effect such bullying had on a child's quality of life.
Bullying and allergies already suck enough as discrete childhood traumas, but when combined they can compound a child's distress. In order to improve a bullied child's quality of life, Shemesh encourages parents to start a dialogue about bullying, the better, he explains, to begin eliminating any residual bullying-related stress:
Finding out about the child's experience might allow targeted interventions, and would be expected to reduce additional stress and improve quality of life for these children trying to manage their food allergies.
A few things about this study: I literally just made fun of a good friend at a holiday party for being allergic to oranges, which is just the latest barb in a long and storied history of cracking wise about the many food items lying in ambush for him (his esophagus also dislikes chocolate, nuts, legumes, apple skins, and, last but most certainly not least, shellfish). So sorry about that, dude.
The other thing is that the coolest kid in my grade school was allergic to pretty much everything, including sunlight. His house had an air purifier that made everything smell vaguely of chlorine and the lights were always turned low like someone was about to film a porno by the fireplace. He only ever ate mac and cheese, sans cheese. BUT. He had all the video games, including Mortal Kombat, which no one was (supposedly) allowed to play. The moral of the story, of course, is that parents hoping to prevent their food-sensitive spawn from getting bullied should, in addition to talking and being open or whatever Dr. Shemesh said, buy their kids a sweet video game console and all the most popular video games. After all, ‘tis the season.
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