Is the school making your child (or you) ill?


We’ve heard about ‘toxic offices’ and how they can affect those who work in them. But what about our school buildings – and our homes? Many schools in this country were built a long time ago, and some still cause problems related to the use of asbestos and lead in construction and paints, poor plumbing, sewage inefficiencies, inadequate ventilation, termites and more.  Can they be playing a role in the often bewildering behaviours shown by some children (and you, of course)?

Do you find that your child copes better with schoolwork at home than during the school day?  Do they (or their teachers) become angry or cry/show emotions more easily at school than at home? Why does their behaviour get progressively worse from Monday to Friday then improve remarkably by Sunday evening?

 Dr Doris Rapp practiced environmental medicine for many years and her legacy to us includes some outstanding books. She found that over the years, a growing number of children seemed to routinely feel unwell.  They may react with hyperactivity, show fatigue or misbehave.  Some may express their difficulty in being able to think clearly at school.

 There are many factors that may cause Environmental Illness (EI). Amongst the most prevalent are poor air quality, particularly due to excessive dust or moulds or to chemical pollution in or around a building. Other factors include foods and seasonal pollen.  EI is a name for an assortment of medical problems that can affect many areas of our bodies.  For example, year-round stuffiness or watery nose, repeated fluid build-up behind the eardrums, chest congestion leading to asthma, ‘growing pains’ or aches in the head, back, neck, muscles or joints that aren’t related to exercise, tummy aches, nausea, bloating, bad breath, persistent bowel problems like constipation, and ‘winds’, problems with bladder control, itchy skin, night sweats, irritating twitches. Accompanying these may be a wide range of behavioural and emotional problems, ranging from leg-wiggling to depression.

Many of these symptoms that affect a child’s school performance negatively may be misdiagnosed and ‘treated’ with an activity modification drug such as Ritalin.  Before going this route, consider whether the child may be at risk for EI due to having an immune system that is not functioning as well as it could. Many highly susceptible children have:

 A history of health problems, sometimes dating back to infancy

  • A characteristic facial appearance often with dark rings, puffiness or wrinkles under the eyes, red ears, a ‘spaced out’ expression and more
  • Certain behaviour patterns such as temper tantrums, meltdowns or withdrawing depending on time of day or following certain foods
  • Sudden, inexplicable changes in how they feel, look, act, write or draw
  • An erratic inability to learn or remember

 Finding out the causes of such behaviours can lead to making simple changes in school and home.  Even changing the chemicals used to clean school bathrooms can bring about positive results.  Allergy diets can be followed to identify and then eliminate foods as well as improving nutrition generally. Possible yeast infections can be treated and even probiotic treatment can be used to improve immune system health.

 EI makes a significant impact on individuals and should not be ignored.  Teachers may suspect their environment if they find an increase in skin irritation, inexplicable fatigue and constant drowsiness.  If this describes you, consider whether you work is a dusty school or a recently renovated school that are subjected to much chemical use during construction. Prompt treatment can help diminish learning problems in children as well as prolonged periods of ill health and discomfort in their teachers!

  Content for this article from the book ‘Is this your child’s world? By Doris J. Rapp, MD, puished by Bantam Books.



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