A new study has identified several factors that may help us understand why kids with asthma are bullied more than healthy kids. The research, presented September 2, 2012 at the European Respiratory Society's Annual Congress in Vienna, emphasized how important it is for doctors to talk to their pediatric patients with asthma about bullying, while also explaining other potential effects the disease could have on other areas of their lives.

It has been known, unfortunately, that it is quite common for children to tease or harass their peers who have a chronic medical condition. However, scientists are not exactly sure what initiates this teasing.

In order to discover what factors are associated with this increased risk of bullying, a team from the Derbyshire Children's Hospital, in the UK, analyzed data from the large six-country "Room to Breathe" survey of childhood asthma.

The experts interviewed children (ages 7 and up) and their parents as part of the study. Data was gathered from 943 questionnaires regarding the lifestyle of parents and their kids, conditions at home, and their overall experience dealing with asthma.

A number of factors associated with an increased chance of bullying was found in the results. The factors that were significantly associated, include:
  • reduced participation in sports
  • feelings of sadness
Other factors contributing to this issue, that could be improved, include:
  • parental smoking
  • poor asthma control
  • parents continuously worrying about their child's heath
The authors hope that the findings will encourage pediatrician doctors to address the issue of bullying with their patients, as well as any other effects their condition has on their life.

Dr. Will Carroll, from the Derbyshire Children's Hospital, revealed:

"We know that bullying is associated with asthma and these findings can help us understand why this is case. A number of the factors identified are things that can be changed, such as participation in sport, asthma control and parental worry over their child's health. As doctors, we must work with families to ensure these risk factors are removed and work with schools and teachers to ensure children with asthma are able to participate in sports at a level that is safe for them."

David Supple, a parent of a child struggling with asthma, explained how hard it is to get kids with exercise-induced asthma to participate in games or sports with their peers.

He continued:

"You can be scared to push them - but the health and social benefits far outweigh the fear, and can help build a lifetime of confidence against bullying. We have made a real effort to include our son, Alex in as much sport as we can to ensure that he isn't excluded from different groups and to keep a wide balance of friends."

Written by Sarah Glynn