Estimates have previously been around 0.1% of children in the UK. According to the new research by Bristol University, that figure is now much higher at 1%.
ME can cause disabling fatigue, low mood, insomnia, muscle pain and headaches.
Of the 2855 schoolchildren the University researchers studied, 461 had missed over 20% of school in 6 weeks. 146 of those absences were unexplained and most of the absent children were known to attend clinics at school.
Out of the 2855 sample, 28 children were found to have previously undiagnosed ME.
Lead author of the study Dr Esther Crawley, believes symptoms can be so mild that they get disregarded by parents and GPs.
The 28 children in the study were found to have extremely mild symptoms and 19 of them made a full recovery within 6 weeks.
Treatment for ME can include cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), graded exercise and slowly returning to normal routines of eating, sleeping and going to school.
The study has highlighted the fact that ME is a cause of school absence and therefore should be taken seriously by schools. Because so many children are left undiagnosed, they are not getting the educational or medical support they need.
There have been calls for extra training for medical professionals, many of whom know little about the effects of ME on children.
Professor of Cognitive behavioural Psychotherapy Trudie Chalder has said: “It is important to treat early to prevent worsening disability. Good outcomes can be expected if children are referred to secondary care and given the right sort of support and advice. All very good news for children with CFS/ME and their families.”
To find out more about CBT, please visit our Counselling and Psychotherapy page.
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