What’s ailing my child? Is it Environmental Illness?

Sometimes a child just doesn’t feel or act right. He may complain about feeling sick; he may misbehave in school, appear hyperactive or whine about being tired.  Some children complain that they can’t concentrate in their classrooms; others seem to complain more at home.  Parents may suspect medical or emotional factors underlying a child’s dis-ease.  But there is another avenue to explore: these children may be suffering from an environmental illness.


Environmental illness (EnI – not to be confused with Emotional Intelligence) is a name for a variety of medical and/or neurological problems that can affect almost any area of the body.  In addition to typical allergy symptoms such as asthma, hay fever and itchy skin, EnI sufferers most often have some combination of health problems such as headaches, extreme fatigue, hyperactivity, pain in muscles, legs or joints, persistent bowel (digestive) problems, bad breath, constant stuffy nose, irritating twitches, wiggling legs and/or a wide range of neurological problems ranging from ‘brain fog’ to depression.


There are many factors in schools and homes that can contribute to EnI.  We tend to be familiar with the dangers of asbestos and lead but less aware of the potential impact of poor air quality due to dust, moulds or chemical pollution in and around a building.  Chemical pollution results, amongst other things, from pesticides, car exhausts, paint, new carpets, cleaning products, disinfectants and even perfume.  Other factors include foods and beverages as well as seasonal pollen.  Any of these factors, whether alone or in combination, can unquestionably trigger serious health, behaviour and academic problems[1]


Who is most likely to be affected?


Most of us spend time in offices, homes or other indoor environments and are exposed to air-borne pollutants both inside and outside the buildings.  We seem to cope and are healthy so are concerns about EnI valid or scaremongering?  In response to such criticism, we could look at the statistics and wonder why so many children suffer from allergies and asthma; why so many are found to lack the ability to concentrate and learn efficiently at school; why so many are compelled to take supplements and medications to help them. 


The number of children is growing and those who show the signs of EnI are most often those with known allergies or allergic relatives.  They typically suffer from hay fever, eczema or hives and may fall ill easily because their immune systems are not able to cope with offending substances.


Many have:

  • A history of health problems, sometimes dating back to infancy
  • Sudden inexplicable changes in how they feel, look, act, write or draw
  • Erratic school performance; sometimes able to learn and remember and at other times find it very difficult


What to do if you suspect EnI?


Children with EnI problems can be helped to overcome them.  Sometimes huge improvements can happen at any age, in a few hours or days.  What needs to be done is to get help in identifying the culprit.  For this, it is highly recommended that you consult a Functional (or Integrative) Medical practitioner.  They will spend considerable time with you to try to establish whether EnI is present in your child and, if so, what to do about it. 


Typical ways to address problem areas are:

  • Making a few simple changes in school, home or work area
  • Avoiding obvious adverse chemical exposures
  • Following an allergy diet
  • Improving nutrition
  • Treating yeast overgrowths and other digestive tract issues


The good news is that children tend to bounce back fairly quickly when their chemically sensitized bodies are helped to avoid offending substances.  Their immune systems are more resilient than adults so they respond faster to appropriate therapies.


If you are truly concerned by your child’s actions and suspect that his or her health is not what it should be, yet your GP finds nothing significant to explain it, you may be rewarded by thinking a little ‘out of the box.’


Integrated Learning Therapy (ILT) addresses learning and behavioural concerns by looking for all possible underlying causes of a child’s challenges. Visit our website to find out more about our approach. www.ilt.co.za.


If you would like to receive more of this type of article, please remember to Like and Share our Facebook page.

[1] Rapp, D.J. MD. Is this your child’s world? 1996. New York: Bantam Books.

Contact Details



+27 (0) 21 873 4951
+27 (0) 82 559 9966
+27 (0) 82 414 4814
+27 (0) 86 691 0051

Email  Find an ILT Practitioner near you