Food allergies can pre-dispose children to being bullied at school, suggests a new study published today in Pediatrics.

The study examined 251 families from a New York City food allergy clinic and discovered that nearly one-third of kids have been bullied because of their food allergy.

The bullying happened on school grounds and resulted in teasing.

In most instances, the kids reported that classmates threatened them with the food to which they were allergic. They would wave it in front of them, throw it at them or promised they would put it in their food undetected.

Of the families who were surveyed, 45.5 percent of the kids and 36.3 percent of their parents reported that the child had been bullied or tormented for any reason. Besides that, 24.7 percent of the parents and 31.5 percent of the kids confirmed they had been bullied specifically because of their food allergy.

Results of the study showed that bullying is associated with reduced quality of life as well as increased distress in parents and children, regardless of the severity of the food allergy. Parents were aware about the bullying in just 52.1 percent of the cases. When parents knew about the bullying, the children’s quality of life improved.

The authors conclude that bullying is frequent in children with food allergies. They point out when parents are aware their children are being bullied, the kid’s quality of life is better.

The research team believes that pediatricians and parents should screen for bullying in children with food allergies in order to decrease stress and better the standard of life for these kids.

In 2011 a study presented at the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Meeting by the European Academy of Allergy and Clinical Immunology reported that food allergies are associated with anxiety and loneliness in children. In fact, one out of five allergic children do not attend classmates’ parties and one in four always bring “safe food” with them.

The burden of food allergies increasing to a life-threatening situation can be worrisome for a child. Normal activity and social lifestyles can be limited due to the constant requirement of avoiding certain foods.

A separate study from 2010 says that children with food allergies are bullied and teased in school, even by teachers. This study correlates with the current one, saying that being diagnosed with a food allergy is emotional for a child. The researchers emphasized adding bullying to the stress already felt by an allergic child is “downright dangerous.”

Written by Kelly Fitzgerald