A new nationwide survey of learners aged between 10 and 18
who suffer from allergies shows that, while most of them “cope” with the
negative effects that allergies have on their school work and sports
activities, they also say that the emotional and psychological effects of being
a sufferer can be debilitating, causing them to be shy, stressed, embarrassed,
self-conscious and even socially isolated.
Another alarming finding was that very few teachers knew
what to do in the case of a severe allergic attack, putting children’s lives at
The survey, which interviewed nearly 800 allergy sufferers
at schools across South Africa, was commissioned by Pharma Dynamics – the
country’s leading supplier of allergy medication – to understand the impact
allergies have on children’s education and ability to thrive in the school
Results indicated that approximately 30% suffered from sinus
allergies, 31.7% from hay fever, 18.2% from asthma, 32.5% from eczema and 17.2% from food allergies, which some
respondents suffering from multiple allergies.
Less than a third
have suffered from birth, with about 72% developing their allergy during early
childhood. About 70% had missed school at some point because of their
allergies. More than one in 10 said they could not concentrate on lessons
because of their allergies.
“While a few respondents indicated that they had to miss
exams or important sporting events because of severe allergic attacks, many
described the emotional and psychological impact of their allergies on their
mental health and social lives, an aspect that is often overlooked in allergy
management,” says Mariska Fouche, public affairs manager for Pharma Dynamics.
“They described feeling embarrassed and self-conscious when
people stared at the eczema on their arms and legs; hating ‘looking gross and
pale’ and ‘not pretty’; and feeling frustrated and unhappy at not being able to
be out on the school fields or with animals, like their friends.
How allergy puts strain on life-style
One girl wanted to give up netball because she didn’t know
how to react to people’s comments while another described not being taken seriously
and being told that they were ‘pretending’ about their allergy. Others told
researchers that their allergies were stressful.
“It is important for young children and teenagers to fit in
with their peers, and allergies can be a major stumbling block to their
emotional and psychological well-being if they are not managed well.”
Another shocking finding was that virtually no teachers or
staff knew what to do in the case of a severe allergy attack. A major allergic
reaction – especially to food allergies, which are on the increase – can land a
child in hospital and could be fatal.
Fouche says that parents and teachers can help children cope
with their allergies with the following tips:For more information about allergies, visit Allergyexpert
and post your queries.