Researchers looked at attendance records for 2855 students who'd missed at least 20% of school days over a 6-week period, excluding those who were out of town, had a known short-term illness, or had otherwise explained absences. They then contacted parents about the absences and examined the children.
As a result, 23 children were newly diagnosed with ME/CFS, including one who had to be assessed at home because of severe illness. Five other children with frequent absences had previously been diagnosed with ME/CFS. That means about 1% of children in the sample had the condition. However, researchers point out that 39 families were contacted regarding absences but did not respond, and it's statistically likely that a few of those children had ME/CFS as well.
Researchers also identified 14 children with mood disorders and 5 children with other medical problems.
The Study's Impact
A lot of people will disregard this study because it was done using the controversial British criteria and treatment protocol, often referred to as biopsychosocial. While I'm not a fan of that view of ME/CFS, I think we can take a few things of value from this work:
- A lot of kids have undiagnosed ME/CFS
- Undiagnosed ME/CFS leads to a lot of missed school
- School absence records can indicate which kids who should be screened
The main message is that parents, schools and doctors need to be more aware of juvenile ME/CFS and its warning signs so we can get kids diagnosed and treated. We know that early intervention leads to better outcomes, especially in children.
The U.S. faces a real problem with this kind of early identification because teachers generally have too many kids in their classrooms and the school nurse is a thing of the past for most districts. Add to that the general disbelief in ME/CFS, and our sick kids have a lot working against them.
Does a child in your life have ME/CFS? Has your child been missing a lot of school due to fatigue that doctors can't figure out? Did you have juvenile ME/CFS? Leave your comments below!
Learn more or join the conversation!
- What Causes Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?
- A Simple Explanation of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
- The Monster List of ME/CFS Symptoms
Photo © Photodisc/Getty Images