EXAM SEASON IS NOT TO BE SNEEZED ATMay 14, 2012 12:02 BST
With exam season upon us, thousands of children in the UK are sitting their GCSEs or Scottish Standard Grades. But if the pressure wasn’t already enough, Allergy UK reveals that for the 38% of young people who suffer from hay fever (seasonal allergic rhinitis), exams couldn’t come at a worse time.
New consumer research from Allergy UK has revealed that 30% of children with hay fever say the condition makes their school life difficult. The national charity surveyed parents of children with the allergy and 31% said their child felt unable to concentrate because of their hay fever, while nearly a quarter (22%) said it makes their child’s life a misery.
Lindsey McManus, Allergy UK comments: “Hay fever is often perceived as a trivial condition but the reality is far different. Seasonal allergic rhinitis brings with it a great deal of suffering for months at a time. Studies have shown that 40% children can actually drop a grade between mocks and final exams because of their hay fever. At Allergy UK we want to raise awareness of the true impact hay fever has on children’s lives.”
The survey also revealed that 43% of children with hay fever find it difficult to sleep, which could, inevitably, have a detrimental effect on their school work. But over one in ten (12%) of children don’t even like leaving the house when they are suffering.
Physically, hay fever or seasonal allergic rhinitis, causes sneezing, as well as an itchy, blocked or runny nose, but it can also affect the eyes, causing itching, inflammation and streaming. In an exam environment, these symptoms can be extremely difficult to manage. However, it’s the length of suffering that adds to the misery. 68% of children suffer for two months or more each year, with three in ten suffering for more than three months.
To help get through the exam season, Lindsey McManus has the following advice for parents:
- Anti-histamines have a proven track record, so do seek the advice of your GP or pharmacist as the modern one-a-day, non-drowsy kind are suitable for children over the age of 12. It might take a while to find the right medication for your child, so don’t wait until the exams to try them out for the first time
- Monitor pollen forecasts during exam time and take extra precautions when the pollen count is high
- If you do drive children to school on exam days, keep car windows closed and the air intake on re-circulate
- Invest in a pair of wraparound sunglasses for your child to keep allergens out of their eyes when they are outside at school
- Help your child get a good night’s sleep by keeping windows and doors closed overnight in their bedroom. Make sure they wash their hair and change their clothes before they go into their bedroom, which will help to keep pollen out
- Try using an air purifier in your child’s bedroom to help to trap pollen particles
- Apply an effective pollen barrier around the edge of each nostril to trap or block pollens, these are available as balms, gels or sprays
- If you have a pet, keep them away from your child during exam time as they can carry pollen in their fur
- If your child’s hay fever is unbearable on the day of an exam, speak to a senior invigilator. There is a chance they could be given special consideration if symptoms are particularly bad. If you have any concerns in the lead up to the exams speak to your child’s school as they may be able to make special arrangements.
Lindsey McManus, Allergy UK comments: “We want people to understand what a debilitating condition hay fever is, and the affect it has on children particularly during the exam period. If your child’s symptoms are severe, a referral to an allergy specialist could be hugely beneficial. There is a form of treatment called immunotherapy which is extremely effective in treating hay fever. If you are considering this option, the treatment needs to be started outside of hay fever season so forward planning is key.
“We would urge parents and children to start planning ahead of time for exams and to talk to their school if they are concerned. With a good management programme, hay fever can be kept under control.”
If hay fever is having a big impact on you or your child’s life then the new Allergy UK website offers invaluable information, with a whole host of factsheets and resources including advice on pollen avoidance. The Allergy UK helpline advisors are always on hand if hay fever symptoms are getting too much for teens and their parents.
Allergy UK is the leading national medical charity providing advice, information and support to people with allergies, food intolerance and chemical sensitivity. Allergy UK acts as the 'voice' of allergy sufferers, representing the views and needs of those affected by this multi organ disease. The charity provides invaluable information and guidance to empower sufferers so that they can manage their symptoms and receive appropriate diagnosis and treatment.
Press enquiries: Julie Doyle (Head of PR & Communications) or Alison Millen (Communications Officer), Allergy UK. T: 01322 611 655, E: email@example.com
 Björkstén et al (2008). Worldwide time trends for symptoms of rhinitis and conjunctivitis: Phase III
 Allergy UK survey carried out March 2012, base sample of 2002 adults, of which 828 adults had a child with an allergy
 Walker S, Khan-Wasti S, Fletcher M, Cullinan P, Harris J, Sheikh A. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2007