Food allergies make kids a target of bullies

Food allergy bullyingBy Elizabeth Landau, CNN

It’s tough enough having to avoid products with peanuts and other ingredients as a kid with severe food allergies. It’s tougher when someone at school waves a granola bar in your face at the peanut-free lunch table.

That’s what happened last week to a Pennsylvania fifth-grader whose mother asked that he not be identified. The boy had experienced allergic reactions to merely touching peanuts or breathing peanut particles in the past, so the act of granola-waving was more serious than for other allergy sufferers.

“He said [he was] scared, and ‘sad that he would do that to me,’ and ‘mad that he would do that to me,’ and worried that it’s going to happen again,” the boy’s mother said.

As the prevalence of food allergies grows in America, doctors are becoming more conscious of a disturbing trend in children getting picked on for not being able to eat certain foods.

According to a new study published in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, about 35 percent of children over age 5 with food allergies have experienced bullying, teasing or harassment. The study, which mostly surveys the parents of these children, said those negative social experiences, which included physical and verbal incidents, happened because of food allergies.

“The school has to really address it. It’s not the child’s job to take care of this problem, because there’s already an imbalance of power,” said study author Dr. Scott Sicherer, pediatric allergist at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York.

Gina Clowes, director of and a coach for parents on food allergies, hears stories about food-allergic kids targeted by others in school all the time.

“They’ll make fun of what they’re eating,” she said. “I don’t know if it’s innocent or malicious, but some kids will literally threaten them with the peanut, or ‘I’m going to throw peanuts at you.’ “

While bullying with regard to food allergies isn’t all that different from bullying about other attributes, children with food allergies have an additional burden because they have the responsibility of taking care of themselves medically already, Clowes and Sicherer stressed.

“Here you have a child who already has to deal with not eating the same things as the other children; they already have to worry about is this meal safe for them; about having an allergic reaction,” Sicherer said. “This is an additional problem of someone making it even harder on them.”

The warning signs are similar to other forms of bullying, Clowes said: A child may appear sad, upset, withdrawn, anxious or say that he or she doesn’t want to go to school. But parents should also look for changes in their kids’ eating habits: They may come home with an untouched lunchbox, for example.

“I’ve had parents say kids go the entire day without eating because they’re being made fun of for special foods,” Clowes said.

The latest data from the Centers from Disease Control and Prevention show that about 3.9 percent of children younger than 18 in the United States have food allergies, representing an 18 percent increase from 1997 to 2007.

None of the incidents reported in the study resulted in allergic reactions, but the danger of them resulting in a dangerous reaction is self-evident, the study authors wrote. The emotional toll is also great. Common consequences included feelings of sadness or depression and embarrassment or humiliation.

This is the first study to address the scope of bullying as it relates to food allergies, the authors said. The information about allergic individuals came from 353 surveys, most of which were completed by parents who were attending various Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network conferences.

More children with food allergies may experience acts of bullying and other targeted negative behaviors than their peers, Sicherer said. A 2001 National Institute of Child Health and Human Development study found that about 17 percent of children in grades six to 10 reported being bullied. By comparison, 50 percent of kids in that age group in the food allergy study were reported to have experienced bullying, teasing or harassment.

The study had the limitation of obtaining most data from parents, rather than children themselves. On the other hand, some children likely do not report these incidents to their parents, meaning Sicherer and colleagues could have underestimated behaviors targeted at food-allergic children.

Parents should inform teachers and administrators right away if an incident occurs, Clowes said.

Children should try to stay away from the person who has bullied them and stand by trusted friends, Sicherer said. Ultimately, it also takes intervention on someone else’s part to speak to whomever is doing the bullying, so children should tell trusted adults what’s going on, he said.

Dr. Stanley Fineman, a practicing allergist with the Atlanta Allergy & Asthma Clinic, said allergists don’t normally ask children if they’ve been bullied or harrassed, but that this study suggests they should. In his own practice, Fineman has heard of incidents such as a child eating peanut butter and then spitting on a peer. He will more regularly inquire about allergy-related incidents because of the new data, he said.

“We as physicians need to specifically ask our patients directly what sort of bullying or harassment type situations have they had in school, because this is something that has not been on our radar screen as it probably should be,” he said.

The Pennsylvania mother whose child got a granola bar waved in his face last week isn’t worried about her son managing his allergies — it’s the other kids she’s nervous about. The teachers at the school have been understanding, but she believes there needs to be more education that one person’s allergy is not the same as another’s — and her son is particularly sensitive. She also dislikes that the school puts her son into a category called “peanut kids,” who get a peanut-free table.

“It’s very open, it’s obvious who has a problem and what the problem is,” she said. “Sometimes I don’t think people understand the severity of it.”

Clear kids with concussions before sports: report

Concussion Injury(Reuters Health) – Kids who suffer concussions should be cleared by a doctor before they start playing sports again, and parents and coaches should be aware that young athletes take longer to recover than college and professional athletes, according to a new report in Pediatrics.

The brains of kids and adolescents might be even more susceptible to the effects of a concussion than older athletes, the Council writes.

The symptoms, which might take a few hours to show up, include headache, nausea, sensitivity to light and noise, or depression and anxiety, the Council says. Some but not all athletes with concussions lose consciousness.

On the field, coaches and trainers should first rule out the possibility of a spine injury, according to the Council recommendations, then should test the athlete’s mental functioning by asking questions such as, “What team did you play last week?” Athletes that do show signs of a concussion should be monitored closely to make sure they don’t get worse.

If a concussion is confirmed, kids need to rest – both physically and mentally, the Council says. Because schoolwork and reading can make symptoms worse, parents should consider taking kids out of school while they recover and discourage their child from any other mental overexertion, including playing video games or watching TV.

Once kids have no more symptoms, they can slowly start being more active – as long as the symptoms don’t return. It might take up to ten days for all symptoms to disappear. Before kids start practicing sports again, they should be checked by a doctor to make sure they’re ready.

When kids return to play before they are healed from a first concussion, they risk second-impact syndrome: when a second blow to the head can mean serious brain injury.

“The younger athletes, their brain is still developing,” McLeod, of the Arizona School of Health Sciences said. “We don’t really know any potential long-term consequences. We just don’t know how these impacts may or may not accumulate over time.”

SOURCE: Pediatrics, online August 30, 2010.

School Bus Safety

School Bus SafetyRules For The School Bus

1. Getting on the school bus.
– When waiting for the bus, stay away from traffic and avoid roughhousing or other behavior that can lead to carelessness. Do not stray onto streets or private property.
– Line up away from the street or road as the school bus approaches.
– Wait until the bus has stopped and the door opens before stepping onto the road.
– Use the hand rail when stepping onto the bus.

2. Behavior on the bus.
– Find a seat and sit down. Loud talking or other noise can distract the bus driver.
– Never put head, arms or hands out of the window.
– Keep aisles clear as books or bags are tripping hazards.
– Get ready to leave the bus before you reach your stop.
– At your stop, wait for the bus to stop completely before getting up from your seat.

3. Getting off the school bus.
– If you have to cross the street in front of the bus, walk at least ten feet ahead of the bus along the side of the road, until you can turn around and see the driver. Make sure that the driver can see you. Wait for a signal from the driver before beginning to cross.
– When the driver signals, walk across the road, keeping an eye out for sudden traffic changes.
– Stay away from the bus’ rear wheels at all times.

4. Correct way to cross the street.
– Children should always stop at the curb or the edge of the road and look left, then right, and then left again before crossing.  They should continue looking in this manner until they are safely across.
– If students’ vision is blocked by a parked car or other obstacle, they should move out to where drivers can see them and they can see other vehicles — then stop, and look left-right-left again.

Playground and Outdoor Play Safety

Playground SafetyPlayground and Outdoor Play Safety

Use this checklist from the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) to find out whether the playgrounds and play structures your child uses are up to par. Be sure to consider your neighborhood public playgrounds, your own play equipment or your neighbor’s and your preschool and school playgrounds.

1. Make sure surfaces around playground equipment have at least 12 inches of wood chips, mulch, sand, or pea gravel, or are mats made of safety-tested rubber or rubber-like materials.
2. Check that protective surfacing extends at least 6 feet in all directions from play equipment. For swings, be sure surfacing extends, in back and front, twice the height of the suspending bar.
3. Make sure play structures more than 30 inches high are spaced at least 9 feet apart.
4. Check for dangerous hardware, like open “S” hooks or protruding bolt ends.
5. Make sure spaces that could trap children, such as openings in guardrails or between ladder rungs, measure less than 3.5 inches or more than 9 inches.
6. Check for sharp points or edges in equipment.
7. Look out for tripping hazards, like exposed concrete footings, tree stumps, and rocks.
8. Make sure elevated surfaces, like platforms and ramps, have guardrails to prevent falls.
9. Check playgrounds regularly to see that equipment and surfacing are in good condition.
10. Carefully supervise children on playgrounds to make sure they’re safe.