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Hay fever exam hazard alarms specialists

Wednesday June 9th, 2010

Teenagers who suffer from hay fever are massively disadvantaged during the exam season, doctors warned today.

New findings, reported to a major conference, show the penalties students suffer if they have allergic reactions.

Traditionally young people sit many of their exams, such as GCSEs, in the early summer, at the height of the pollen season which triggers hay fever.

Experts say teenagers are especially vulnerable to developing hay fever - and the new analysis may place pressure on educationalists to reconsider the exam timetable.

The findings show that students suffering from hay fever on the day of an exam face a 40 per cent increased risk of dropping one grade.

The problem is aggravated if they take anti-histamines, which can cause drowsiness, researchers said. The risk of losing a grade increases by 70 per cent.

As many as 28 per cent of teenagers continue to take drugs which cause drowsiness - although guidelines advocate other medication.

The findings were reported to a European conference in London, UK, hosted by the British Society for Allergy and Clinical Immunology. The research was conducted by a group called Education for Health, working with Imperial College, London, and Edinburgh University, Scotland.

Society president Dr Glenis Scedding said there was hope of improved treatments for hay fever.

She said: "Since the report was published hay fever has begun to be taken more seriously by patients and their doctors.

"The recent success of sublingual immunotherapy using grass tablets for grass pollen induced rhinitis means that there is now a way to alter the course of this condition which not only impairs work and school ability but can lead to and exacerbate asthma."

Another specialist Professor Stephen Durham, of the Royal Brompton Hospital, London, said: "Hay fever affects one in four people in the UK and is a distressing condition that may compromise what for most of us is the best time of the year.

"Unfortunately the condition is often trivialised not only by doctors and relatives, but by the patients themselves. What this study tells us is that in addition to causing troublesome symptoms, hayfever may impair examination performance at a very important time for teenagers and young adults."

* The conference heard that successful studies in treating peanut allergy have now triggered new efforts to "wean" babies off allergies.

Researchers in Cambridge, UK, have successfully been giving small quantities of peanut to infants to "desensitise" them from allergy.

A new project, dubbed EAT - or Early Acquisition of Tolerance - is testing the technique on six foods that cause allergy. Researchers are testing whether introducing babies to foods, alongside breast-feeding, might reduce rates of food allergies.

Peanut researcher Dr Andrew Clark, from Addenbrooke's Hospital, Cambridge, said: "The children who took part in the first study are much more relaxed about eating out without worrying whether peanuts have been added to their food or not and parents no longer check labels for traces of nuts when out food shopping. Families report that their lives have been changed by the study."

Tags: Allergies & Asthma | Diet & Food | Europe | Infancy to Adolescence | UK News

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