Last week, a child with severe allergies was taken to the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center for an unusual — but disturbing — injury: peanut butter bullying. According to Hopkins’ director of pediatric allergy, Dr. Robert Wood, the bully who smeared peanut butter on another child’s face is part of a disturbing new trend, in which bullies use other children’s allergies against them.
These kinds of attacks come in all sorts of inventive, sadistic forms: spitting milk at someone’s face, or switching out sandwiches, or (as one child told the New York Times), dangling a Kit Kat bar wrapper in front of a child with milk/egg/wheat allergies and chanting, “You can’t eat this!”
Part of the problem is that bullies may not recognize the severity of their classmates’ allergies, leading them to pull nasty tricks that may turn out to be quite injurious. And not all the harm is physical: Dr. Wood says that he refers many highly allergic patients to psychologists “because they won’t touch a doorknob or use a bathroom, because they fear inadvertent exposure to their allergen.”