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Allergies & Bullying

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Pizza parties aren't as much fun for James Yu as they are for most other fourth graders.

"I'm allergic to tomatoes so I can't have the sauce. I'm allergic to dairy so I can't have the cheese, and I'm allergic to wheat so I can't have the bread."

Food allergies force James to bring his lunch to school every day, but they've also made him a target for bullies. A new study in the January issue of 'Pediatrics' says nearly one-third of chidlren with food allergies are bullied. It's something James knows all too well.

"People have come up to me when the aides weren't looking and waved pizza in my face."

His mother noticed a change in his behavior.

"He was miserable. And he told me he didn't want to go back. And he felt really sad and he felt really lonely and that no one understood him," says Christina.

Dr. Scott Sicherer is the senior author of the study. "Food allergy is a vulnerability. Just like the child who might be as athletic as the next child, or may be different in some other way. So the other children might be taking that as an area that they are going to potentially pick on."

In the study, almost half the parents of the bullied children were not aware their child was being victimized. The children who did tell their parents had lower stress and better quality of life. Christina spoke to James' teachers about the bullying, and things turned around quickly.

"Once they understood what was going on they really helped to make things a lot better."

And James is once again happy to go to school. 

Experts say that parents and allergists should be asking children about bullying and make sure to communicate any problems clearly to the childrens' teachers.

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