Nut allergies can be scary enough. Those with them, especially when young, don’t even know they can’t eat the fruits, and symptoms include a rapid progression to anaphylaxis and plain fear. However, now it is being reported that to add more strife in children, they are getting bullied over it. According to a new study conducted in the United Kingdom, families with children who are living with this potentially life-threatening condition often feel isolated, stigmatized, or unfairly excluded from activities, due to the allergies.

Amanda Santos from Massachusetts explains what happened to her daughter:

“They (the school) knew going in that she had an allergy; they said it was no problem. But until we sat down and had a meeting about the precautions they’d have to take, such as kids washing their hands, asking parents not to send nuts to school, that kind of thing, they didn’t realize how severe it was. I just think they didn’t want her there, didn’t want to deal with all of that.”

Parents interviewed for the study frequently encountered skepticism or hostility when they tried to explain their children’s allergies to others. Birthday parties became “nightmares,” and even just sending kids to school or leaving them with friends or family was terrifying.

In the lunchroom at school, children might feel bullied. “She was teased and things like that, people saying…’I’ve got nuts and I’m gonna come and touch you,'” said one participant.

At a social gathering, the hosts thought the family was overdramatizing the problem. “We got invited up for a party…gave them a list of what he could eat,” said one study participant. “[We] walked in there and I couldn’t believe my eyes, big bowls of peanuts in between all the food.”

Forgetful or disbelieving relatives aren’t uncommon either. In one family, a grandparent gave a child candy with nuts. “Now whether it was deliberate or not, I don’t know, but I blew a fuse,” said one participant. “I suppose in my heart of hearts I felt that he’d given it deliberately; my husband doesn’t want to believe that his father would do that.”

If you suffer from a nut allergy, strictly avoiding nuts, including peanuts and tree nuts like cashews and walnuts, and food containing nuts is the only way to prevent a reaction. But, it is not always easy to avoid these foods since many unsuspecting products contain nuts.

Peanuts are the most common food trigger of life-threatening anaphylactic shock, accounting for more than half of all fatal food-induced allergic reactions. Peanut allergies are on the rise, doubling in children between 1997 and 2002. About 1% of children in the U.S. have peanut allergies.

Along with the rise in nut allergies have come more restrictions on schools and other public places, including nut-free classrooms and airplanes, as well as better labeling for products. In recent years, there has been a bit of backlash against the greater focus on nut allergies.

Brian P. Vickery, MD, an assistant professor of pediatrics at Duke University School of Medicine, in Durham says:

“Generally speaking, the public awareness of food allergy in the U.S. has increased, and this has resulted in some real benefits to families. For example, manufacturers are now required to put clearer labels on food items, many restaurants can provide better experiences, and schools are often more prepared to handle children with allergies.”

Written by Sy Kraft