CNN Health

Allergy bullying: When food is a weapon

By Elizabeth Landau, CNN

(CNN) — In kindergarten, Owen Kellogg came home sobbing one day because another boy at school had told him that he had a peanut, and that he was going to force Owen to eat it.

Owen, now 7, is allergic to peanuts and tree nuts, said his mother, Haylee Kellogg of Cedar Hills, Utah. In reality, the taunting boy did not have a peanut, but Owen didn’t know that — he just knew that eating a peanut could make him stop breathing.

It’s hard for parents of food-allergic children to keep them safe at school when there are so many opportunities to eat snacks and meals with unsafe ingredients. For some kids, just touching a certain food or inhaling particles of it could cause a reaction.

But on top of the safety question is a social one.A study released last week suggests that almost half of children who have food allergies have been bullied — sometimes by having food thrown at them.

“Clearly, it’s an issue for these school-aged children in terms of how they interact with their peers,” said Dr. Clifford Bassett, director of Allergy & Asthma Care of New York. “Immediately, when there’s a diagnosis of food allergy, there’s a little bit of a stigma.”

  • Studies show that many kids with food allergies are bullied
  • About 8% of U.S. kids have at least one food allergy
  • Talk to your allergist to develop an action plan