Bullies are Now Using Their Victims’ Allergies Against Them

Nearly one in three kids with food allergies has been bullied because of it, often with the food they’re allergic to


Bullying has been around forever, but it’s taken on a whole new tenor in recent years. With a new set of tools to use, bullies are no longer just roughing kids up and taking their lunch money—they’re causing serious, permanent problems for bullied kids. From internet stalking and blackmail, to using chemical warfare in the form of food allergies, bullies today aren’t like they used to be.

In today’s New York Times, Catherine Saint Louis has a story about bullies using kids’ foods allergies against them. She spoke with Dr. Hement P. Sharma, the head of the Children’s National Medical Center in Washington:

Every few months, a child recounts being force-fed an allergen, Dr. Sharma said, adding, “Even if it’s just a child who feels singled out because of their food allergy, it compounds the emotional burden.”

Many kids, Saint Louis writes, don’t really understand how serious food allergies can be. This PSA from Food Allergy Research & Education, a nonprofit group, depicts how food bullying can seriously harm children:

Food Allergy Bullying: It's Not a Joke PSA (Full Version)

In one study published in the Journal of Pediatrics, 251 families were polled about their children’s allergies, and the bullying they might have experienced. Over 30 percent of kids in the survey reported being bullied because of their allergies—bullying that frequently included threats from their classmates. The study also found that about half of the bullying goes unnoticed and unreported.

Many schools are aware that this is an issue. About 15 states, including Texas and Arizona, have specific guidelines for their cafeterias that tackle food bullying specifically.

From food to Facebook, bullies have seriously stepped up their game since the days of wedgies—so much so that several government organizations have started campaigns to address it. And now, not even the lunch room is safe.

More from Smithsonian.com:

Bullying Really Does Mess You Up Later in Life
Too Popular to Bother With Bullying

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