Telling Your Children ~ Treatment Issues for Children

The most important step in treating children with M.E./CFS is getting an accurate diagnosis. Knowing the reason for their health will help the children and their family cope in an emotionally healthier way.

In one case the parents of an eight year old were reluctant to tell him about the diagnosis for four years. They were surprised by his reaction of relief that he finally knew what was wrong with him. He had been ill for at least two years and had problems with other kids making fun of him when he couldn't run or do sports.

Unknown to his parents, he had finally handled it by telling people that he had been in a car accident and his muscles didn't work properly anymore! He did not feel confident to talk to his friends about M.E./CFS for several years, but he felt validated and was able to understand and learn to cope with his limitations with the help of his family.

The ideal situation is to find a doctor who is knowledgeable about M.E./CFS at least to obtain a diagnosis. In most cases patients or parents have to work with their family doctor and realize that they have to educate the doctor about M.E./CFS.

Treatment for children with M.E./CFS is similar for that in adults. There is no cure or one medicine that helps all children.

Treatment is geared to relief of symptoms and is specific to each patient using over-the-counter medications, prescriptions, nutritional supplementation, and sometimes alternative therapies, such acupuncture. When using medications it is important to remember that persons with M.E./CFS may have unusual responses to antidepressants.

Lifestyle changes are an important component of treatment. These include learning to pace activities, increased rest, reduced stress and dietary restrictions, if appropriate.

Both physical and mental exertion can lead to worsening of symptoms. Limited exercise (such as walking) is usually recommended but the amount varies according to the severity of the illness and it is important that the young people learn to listen to their bodies and not push beyond their limits.

Students may need to be exempted from the physical education requirement for graduation from Ontario schools. Students can request to have a substitution of their required High School Physical Education credit with another course offered. For more information see the Ministry of Education's website: Section 3.2 ("Substitutions for Compulsory Courses").