How To Detect Food Allergy Bullying and How To Deal With It (7 Guidelines)

Quick Summary of How to Detect Food Allergy Bullying and How To Deal With It

  1. 1. Foster open communication with your children
  2. 2. Look for behavioral signs
  3. 3. Change your questions
  4. 4. Teach your children what bullying is
  5. 5. Document everything
  6. 6. Advice your child not to react to the bully
  7. 7. Communicate with adults and school staff


In standard conversations about bullying, food allergies are often left out. When truth-be-told, food allergy bullying is much more common than you may think. Though all forms of bullying are intolerable, it can be hard to believe that someone would find it humorous or clever to verbally tease someone because of a food allergy, let alone expose them to a potentially life-threatening allergen as a prank. For parents of children with food allergies, knowing how to detect food allergy bullying is essential.

Multiple studies have been done recently in a variety of countries about the frequency of food allergy bullying. Fortunately, the majority of children with food allergies say that they’ve never been teased with ill-intent. However, according to findings in most studies, approximately a third of these children are bullied. Victims describe being threatened, teased, and taunted because of their food allergy. Some even report having their known allergen rubbed on their face or secretly put into their lunch. As you would guess, almost all of these incidents take place at school.

What else did the studies show?

Another surprising discovery in most studies was that the parents often had no knowledge of the incidents. These findings stress even more the necessity of knowing how to detect food allergy bullying. Parents and families of food-allergic children should be prepared if and when a bullying incident takes place. Knowing what can be done for your child afterward will help everyone involved reach a level of understanding and healing.

All occurrences need to be taken seriously. Immediate consequences and aftereffects of a food allergy bullying incident have the potential to be significant. A general increase in anxiety is very common among victims, as is decreased self-confidence. And it goes without saying that physical abuse (forcefully or secretly causing a person to ingest their allergen) can be life-threatening.

Food allergy bullying education is the key

The more educated family members are regarding how to detect food allergy bullying, the safer everyone will be. Food-allergic children with parents who were aware of the bullying have significantly less negative side effect after an incident.

It’s worth noting that kids getting negative allergy-related attention rarely wear their medical identification, viewing them as badges of dishonor.

So, what do parents need to know?

How To Detect Food Allergy Bullying

Foster open communication

The first step toward detecting food allergy bullying is to maintain an environment of open communication with your children. This is a more general parental suggestion that applies to any situation, and it certainly applies to food allergy bullying. If your kids aren’t comfortable talking to you about their concerns, it’ll be difficult to become aware of bullying.

If you feel like your relationship with your children is not conducive to this kind of conversation, consider making changes. One thing you can do is bring up elements of your daily life and your personal concerns to them. If they see you’re comfortable talking to them about your feelings, the more likely they’ll do the same. The more your child truly communicates with you, the more familiar you’ll become with their cues that may signal something.

Look for behavioral signs

There are some obvious behavioral signs that can indicate a problem may exist. Perhaps your food-allergic child has a sudden change in friends. Or you find they’ve abruptly changed their lunch crowd. A rapid increase in anxiety is another behavioral sign.

Children are usually more willing to share their emotions and experiences compared to teenagers, but we’re sure you don’t need to take our word for it. And when it comes to threats or taunting, teenagers are even less likely to share, studies show. Don’t be afraid to reach out to your child or teen’s friends or parents of friends if you feel like your child isn’t being forthcoming for whatever reason. It’s best to find out for sure if you have suspicions.

Change your questions

Instead of asking generic questions like “Did you have a good day?”, ask questions that require more than a one-word answer. This is crucial for knowing how to detect food allergy bullying. Consider questions like “What friends did you eat lunch with today?” or “Did anything surprising happen today?” You’re more likely to obtain detailed information with these kinds of questions.

One reason for this is that children often don’t really understand bullying or even recognize it when it happens. But they certainly experience the effects. So in some cases, your child may not purposefully be keeping information from you. They may not have yet made the connection that what happened to them is, in fact, bullying and that it’s extremely harmful.

Psychiatrists and pediatricians who treat food-allergic children will often ask probing questions such as “has anyone at school ever bothered you about your food allergy?” which is almost always followed by something like “Did you tell someone?” Obviously, the more information you can acquire, the closer you’ll get to knowing how to address the issue.

How To Deal With Food Allergy Bullying

Document everything

Once you’re sure (or close to sure) that your child is experiencing food allergy bullying, the first thing you need to do is get the details recorded. Write down the details as (or after) your child explains them to you. Ask your child if any grown-ups saw it happen and if they said or did anything, the names of other kids who were there, and the location of where the incident took place. Anything your son or daughter can tell you should be documented.

Help your child understand that if a bully is threatening them with forced physical contact with an allergen, the correct response is to run. The next step is to tell an adult right away. The responsibility at this point is on the adults who have stewardship over the school (teachers, principals, etc), church, or whatever environment is in play. These adults need to be held accountable for enacting changes and taking measures to assure, as best as possible, that food allergy bullying stops.

If you need to arrange meetings or official discussions with school faculty or district board members because you feel that not enough is being done, certainly do so. Hopefully, the situation doesn’t require you to do so, but we know of many parents who found it necessary to take initiative and accomplished much in doing so.

It’s not your child’s fault

Some food-allergic children who have been bullied feel that their misfortunate is somehow their own fault; that their food allergy makes them weak or unworthy of normal social treatment. Do your best to help them know that this is in every way untrue and that you and their friends and all the adults at the school love them. That they will do everything they can to prevent the bully from acting out towards them.

Also make sure that your child understands that it’s fine for them to feel scared, angry, and sad. These feelings are normal under these circumstances, particularly if the food allergy bullying is persistent. Some parents have reported that role-playing certain scenarios at home has helped, particularly with anxiety surrounding repeat offenses.

Don’t feed the bully

The key to getting a bully to stop acting out is to ignore them, even when they engage you. The more emotion you show, the more satisfied the bully becomes with the mistreatment of their victim. This is certainly easier said than done, but studies and experience show that this is absolutely true. Teach your child that the bigger the reaction a bully can get out of their target, the more likely the behavior will repeat itself. Advise your food-allergic loved ones not to fight back and to tell an adult immediately after being bullied.

On a similar note, the people who your child should not ignore are those who make him or her feel comfortable and confident.

Communicating with school staff

We’ve already mentioned the importance of informing an adult after a bullying incident, but here’s a bit more on specifically dealing with school faculty and administrators.

Of course, get in touch with the school as soon as possible when an incident has occurred. If the incident is decidedly serious, don’t waste any time and let them know immediately. Be sure to obtain the school’s bullying policy in document form. Provide the school with all the details you know of, including texts/emails/pictures if you have any, and statements from witnesses if you’ve gotten that far.

In virtually every set of circumstances, schools will not take bullying affairs lightly. Typically, a meeting will be held between parents of children involved and pertinent school staff members. Depending on how severe the event, actions will be taken accordingly. These can range from simply educating offenders on the life-threatening nature of food-allergy bullying to suspensions and beyond. Many schools have anti-bullying programs already in place. If they don’t at the time of your child’s incident, it’s likely that one will be implemented and will probably involve the whole school.

How To Detect Food Allergy Bullying and Prevent It

For teenagers, sometimes school administrators will decide that the best course of action is not to make broad announcements about the child’s food allergy but rather to only inform those who they feel should know, such as an individual teacher or lunch staff. In some cases, this is necessary to prevent any further targeting of the child.

Children in general often feel that “telling on someone” is never a good idea and that it’s better to keep their mouths shut. Teach yours that if the safety – and even the life – of another student is at risk, it is most certainly not “tattling.” Peers and classmates who witness a bullying incident or who even have a hunch that something might be going on should tell an adult without hesitation.

Online food allergy bullying

Fortunately, when it comes to how to detect food allergy bullying, harassment via digital media is less common compared to other forms of bullying. There can certainly be verbal harassment, but bullies can’t physically threaten another child with cheese or peanut butter through a phone or in an email. Still, all suspicious or blatantly offensive texts/emails/Facebook messages should be screenshotted and documented.

Let the school staff know when something like this transpires.

How To Detect Food Allergy Bullying – Conclusion

Believe it or not, it can sometimes be difficult to persuade others that teasing a child with food allergies is a serious thing. Due to the fact that it’s a predominantly silent and unnoticeable condition, unlike traditional sicknesses other physical conditions, others often don’t realize the potential severity of this affliction unless they’ve witnessed an allergic reaction.

As would be expected, education is the key to how to detect food allergy bullying and how to deal with it. Educate yourself, educate your child, and educate as many others as necessary in an effort to prevent the effects of food allergy bullying and bullying altogether.

how to detect food allergy bullying

How To Detect Food Allergy Bullying and How To Prevent It

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