The social vulnerability that is associated with food allergy (FA) might predispose children with FA to bullying and harassment. This study sought to quantify the extent, methods, and correlates of bullying in a cohort of food-allergic children.
Patient and parent (83.6% mothers) pairs were consecutively recruited during allergy clinic visits to independently answer questionnaires. Bullying due to FA or for any cause, quality of life (QoL), and distress in both the child and parent were evaluated via questionnaires.
Of 251 families who completed the surveys, 45.4% of the children and 36.3% of their parents indicated that the child had been bullied or harassed for any reason, and 31.5% of the children and 24.7% of the parents reported bullying specifically due to FA, frequently including threats with foods, primarily by classmates. Bullying was significantly associated with decreased QoL and increased distress in parents and children, independent of the reported severity of the allergy. A greater frequency of bullying was related to poorer QoL. Parents knew about the child-reported bullying in only 52.1% of the cases. Parental knowledge of bullying was associated with better QoL and less distress in the bullied children.
Bullying is common in food-allergic children. It is associated with lower QoL and distress in children and their parents. Half of the bullying cases remain unknown to parents. When parents are aware of the bullying, the child’s QoL is better. It is important to proactively identify and address cases in this population.