Hayfever :: Students with hayfever symptoms more likely to drop

Children who experience hayfever symptoms while taking their GCSE exams are 40% more likely to drop a grade between their mocks and final exams, according to the findings of a new study conducted by the charity Education for Health, in collaboration with the University of Edinburgh and Imperial College London.

This figure rises to 70% if they are taking a sedating anti-histamine treatment (which can cause drowsiness). Despite current guidelines advocating the use of widely-available non-sedating medication, 28% of the students taking medication for their symptoms were on a sedating anti-histamine.

The study is the first to look at the impact of hayfever on actual exam performance (as opposed to simulated conditions) and is available on-line today from the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

Hayfever has a peak age of onset in adolescence. Unfortunately, GCSE exams, which run from mid-May to the end of June, coincide with when the grass pollen season is at its height, and hayfever prevalence is at its greatest. Given the large numbers of young people affected, with as many as 63% of students in this study alone reporting hayfever symptoms, the findings are expected to prompt discussions on how to better manage hayfever symptoms in children before and during the exam season, and even whether to change the timings of key exams such as GCSEs and A Levels altogether so as not to disadvantage pupils with hayfever in the future.

“Parents and health professionals need to understand that having hayfever could cause their children to perform less well in their exams and that effective treatments are widely available from their GP, practice nurse or pharmacist” commented the lead investigator Dr Samantha Walker, study lead and Director of Education, Research and Development for Education for Health.

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