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Are childhood peanut allergies a 'frivolous and self-indulgent fad'?

Parents of children with nut allergies have a lot on their nut-free plates, from teaching their kids how to avoid all things nutty, to asking that friends, schools and family members help out.

A new study has found that these parents are also fielding large servings of hostility and skepticism on the side.

British researchers have found that parents are "routinely made to feel by friends and even family that their child's nut allergy is a 'frivolous and self-indulgent fad invented and maintained by attention-seeking people,' " according to a statement.

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Another finding: Nut allergies have become another way bullies harass classmates. Children in the study reported being told, "I've got nuts and I'm gonna touch you!"

The research team – from the University of Leicester, the London School of Economics and Political Science, and the Children's Allergy Clinic at University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust – interviewed 26 families about the techniques and strategies they use to cope in various situations.

One parent said receiving birthday party invitations was a "nightmare" because other children's parents think nut allergy "is a bit faddy," and don't realize it can be life-threatening, according to the statement. And others reported that they suspected that people – including family and friends – had deliberately given their child nuts to test if the allergy was real.

As research leader Mary Dixon-Woods told the Daily Mail: "In many ways nut allergy may be considered a form of disability because of the ways in which it imposes social barriers on participating fully in society."

Are we too dismissive of nut allergies? Should we have more sympathy, especially for kids?

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About the Author

Tralee Pearce has been a reporter at The Globe and Mail since 1999, starting as a writer in the paper’s Style section. She joined the new Life section for its launch in 2007. She covers parenting and family issues for the daily section. More

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