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Chronic fatigue syndrome in children aged 11 years old and younger


Children in primary school can be very disabled by chronic fatigue syndrome or ME (CFS/ME). The clinical presentation in this age group (under 12 years old) is almost identical to that in older children.

Aim: To describe children who presented to the Bath paediatric CFS/ME service under the age of 12 years.

Method: Inventories measuring fatigue, pain, functional disability, anxiety, family history and symptoms were collected prospectively for all children presenting to the Bath CFS/ME service between September 2004 and April 2007. Data from children who presented to the service under the age of 12 are described and compared to those who presented at age 12 or older.

Results: 178 children (under the age of 18) were diagnosed as having CFS/ME using the RCPCH criteria out of 216 children assessed. The mean age at assessment for children with CFS/ME was 14.5 years old (SD 2.9). Thirty-two (16%) children were under 12 years at the time of assessment, four children were under 5 years and the youngest child was 2 years old. Children under 12 were very disabled with mean school attendance of just over 40% (average 2 days a week), Chalder fatigue score of 8.29 (CI 7.14 to 9.43 maximum possible score = 11) and pain visual analogue score of 39.7 (possible range 0–100). Comparison with children aged 12 or older showed that both groups were remarkably similar at assessment. Twenty-four out of the 26 children with complete symptom lists would have been diagnosed as having CFS/ME using the stricter adult Centers of Disease Control and prevention (CDC) criteria.

Conclusion: Disability in the under-12 age group was high, with low levels of school attendance, high levels of fatigue, anxiety, functional disability and pain. The clinical pattern seen is almost identical to that seen in older children, and the majority of children would also be diagnosed as having CFS/ME using the stricter adult definition.

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