ME is a chronic disabling illness of the immune and central nervous system that affects children as well as adults.

ME is also known as chronic fatigue syndrome or post-viral fatigue syndrome. The cause is unclear but in many cases ME starts after a viral illness or after severe stress. The main symptom is fatigue following minimal physical or mental exertion. ME can last for up to three years.

Key characteristics

A child with ME may:

  • have severe muscle or joint pain and headaches that don’t respond to painkillers
  • have erratic sleep patterns (sometimes sleeping all the time or hardly at all)
  • have a sore throat and/or enlarged lymph glands
  • suffer with skin rashes or numbness
  • feel sensitivity to noise, bright light and hot or cold temperatures
  • lose their appetite and have some bowel problems
  • suffer loss of concentration and have short-term memory and word finding difficulties
  • become irritable and frustrated
  • have problems coping with any physical activity eg. walking, writing, speaking, singing.

Support strategies

Children who are severely affected will often need home tuition until they improve sufficiently to make a phased return to school.

You may need to:

  • offer part-time attendance at school
  • facilitate regular rest periods in a quiet place
  • provide an adult mentor to listen to the child’s anxieties
  • use circletime to talk about issues surrounding ME
  • ensure that classroom tasks are short and clearly defined
  • make flexible arrangements for PE lessons and for playtimes if necessary.

Support agencies

Action for ME (AfME)
Association of Young People with ME (AYME)
ME Association