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 risk.
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 environment.
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.
Developing allergies during childhood
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.