It’s anti-bullying week so I wanted to have a bit of a chat . In particular, bullying someone because they have allergies. In order to survive with allergies in this world, you need to grow a tough skin. It does seem to be a condition that comedians feel it’s OK to have a pop at. We are laughable in the eyes of many. We are seen as fussy, freaks and that our allergies are not real.
Well let me tell you now. Allergies are very real. We did not choose to have them. People die from allergies. People die from asthma every day, and I think a lot of those deaths attributed to asthma are due to allergic triggers that were undiagnosed.
Sadly we do hear about allergy bullying more and more. We need to educate our kids and our friends that it’s not OK to make fun of us. And most importantly that allergies can be fatal and anaphylaxis can happen very quickly.
Bullying the allergy kid can be fatal
Bullying someone with an allergy can be fatal. As happened in the tragic case of little Karanbir Cheema, who died at school after having cheese thrown at him by classmates who thought it was funny.
You can read more here, Boy 13, with dairy allergy died after schoolmate threw cheese down his top, inquest heard.
I think we’ve failed both these kids. Karanbir deserved more respect from his peers; he lived with a life threatening allergy and did not deserve to be taunted in this way. An act of bullying that tragically led to his death.
But we also failed his classmates who didn’t realise how serious Karanbir’s allergies were. That poor kid has to live with what he did, in school, where both Karanbir and all the other children should be safe.
You can’t stop kids mucking about, but a 13 year old is mature enough to understand life and death and it should be possible for them to see the potential seriousness of this action. ie. throwing food at someone who you know is allergic to that food.
You wouldn’t expect a kid to die from just having the food thrown at them, but it still doesn’t make it excusable to hurl potential allergen triggers at anyone.
The peanut throwing incidents
It happened to me at school. Boys would throw peanuts at me during lunch break or stuff a load into my school bag, just waiting for me to find them and flip. But I never told anyone. I was a bit of a geek anyway and just got on with life. Emptied out my bag as best I could and cleaned it when I got home. It didn’t happen often but it was there. That undercurrent that my peanut allergy was somehow a laughing point.
Respect and understanding
We need to learn respect for our fellow humans.
We need to teach kindness and empathy.
And that starts at home. Kids who parrot their parents, saying things like ‘You can’t come to my party because you have allergies.’ are learning from Mum and Dad what is acceptable. I don’t think it is acceptable to exclude anyone just because you’re scared or don’t understand their allergies.
People need to have the guts to have a conversation. Admit that you don’t know about allergies, ask the mum or dad for advice. Just talk.
And stop taking the piss out of people with allergies. It is a hidden disability and it needs to be understood and respected.
If you are fortunate enough not to have allergies, lucky you. But don’t exclude and bully those who do. Ignoring someone and pushing them out of things because they are awkward and difficult in your eyes is also a form of passive bullying.
It happens to me even now. People use words like, ‘you’re a nightmare’ or ‘special needs’. And sometimes I take ownership and laugh it off and pretend it’s cool. But it’s really not OK. I’m not a nightmare, I’m just a scared girl trying to keep herself safe and that can make me neurotic and obsessed where food is concerned but I am not apologising for that.
Gosh sorry guys, got a bit ranty there. But I feel so strongly about this, and any bullying really. We need to embrace our differences and be more interested in understanding what each other is dealing with.
I really feel the root of this is kindness. If you can be anything, be kind.
Anyone else have experiences of being bullied because of allergies? Or their child being bullied?
- Enough is enough with the food allergy jokes – an article about allergy bullying from Allergic Living
- Let’s stop eczema bullying
- What would I say to my teenage self about allergies
- Lower quality of life for children with food allergies