Allergy bullies in school: Your thoughts
September 29th, 2010
04:54 PM ET

Allergy bullies in school: Your thoughts

CNN received a huge response yesterday to the article about kids being bullied for their food allergies.

And more than 70,000 readers responded to a poll on Eatocracy about whether they think schools should make special accommodations for kids with peanut allergies.

Peanuts are one of the more common allergens that cause problems for children, but they are certainly not the only ones that can cause anaphylaxis. Milk, egg, peanut, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, soy, and wheat account for 90 percent of all food allergy reactions, according to the Food Allergy & Anaphyalxis Network. So, while some schools spread awareness by designating "peanut-free tables," that's only one piece of the allergy story - there are plenty of kids with allergies who won't benefit from being isolated from peanuts. But for those who do have severe allergies to peanuts, especially to airborne particles of peanuts, such measures can potentially save lives.

The authors of the bullying study didn't directly address whether kids being picked on for allergies is a recent phenomenon. But reader briz0519 experienced this many years ago:

I am now 23 years old, and I can attest to being bullied because of my peanut allergy. Often times, it was by people who were friends with me but didn't realize how seriously my allergy was. In middle school, I told another student I couldn't be near peanuts during our home economics class, and he proceeded to put it in my face – I ended up swelling up and breaking out and going to the hospital. I am able to manage with my allergy, but I wish parents would teach their kids more about being sensitive to others when they have this allergy.

Goldielover says her district has actually banned peanuts from all its schools. Czarina says her children couldn't bring in peanut or wheat products, and believes "that went TOO FAR. When the majority are negatively impacted we need to find an alternative for the kid[s] at risk."

Meanwhile, readers (melina1004, TimW65, kake79) voiced a different extreme: that children whose allergies are so severe that they can't be around other foods should not be in public school, or should be home-schooled. This sentiment naturally received a lot of backlash from parents who believe children with allergies have just as much right to be in public school as other kids, and should be accommodated appropriately.

THEBaroness writes:

Please understand that I ask for only one accommodation for my son. I ask only that he not be exposed to the thing that could kill him. When I was in school i remember kids with asthma being allowed to sit out during gym. I was never bitter. That is because I had good parents who taught me that as a society we should be tolerant of those with medical problems.

The bottom line is that, beyond school interventions, parents should help their children prevent allergic emergencies by reading ingredients on product labels, avoiding what they are allergic to, and carrying life-saving medication such as an epinephrine auto-injector. As imawoman writes, in the years beyond school, people with allergies must fend for themselves.

Bullying isn't acceptable on any level but if a parent won't teach their kids how to manage their own allergies, then how is the kid going to deal with high school – college – work? Do you think those places will accommodate allergies? Nope. This is coming from a parent whose kids have severe nut allergies.

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