In 2004 the Department of Health earmarked pound;8.5 million for specialist services for chronic fatigue syndrome or myalgic encephalopathy (CFSME), also sometimes known as post-viral fatigue syndrome or post-infection fatigue syndrome. The recognition by the chief medical officer, Sir Liam Donaldson, that this was "a genuine illness" was a breakthrough for sufferers and their parents. But diagnosis is not straightforward (there is no way of testing for the condition) and treatment subject to debate.
Alongside fatigue, children with CFSME commonly report dizziness, lightheadedness, abdominal pain, rash, fever and chills. One study suggests that half of all long-term school absence is attributable to CFSME. Eighty per cent of school-age children with the illness fall behind in their studies or even drop out of education altogether. Only a small percentage of people who have had CFSME return to normal health.
* The Association of Young People with ME (AYME) has a website at www.ayme.org.uk, and its helpline can be contacted from Monday to Friday, 10am to 2pm and Wednesday evening 6pm-9pm, on 08451 23 23 89.
* The ME Association: www.meassociation.org.uk; its helpline (0870 444 1836 for non-members) is open every day, 10am-noon, 2-4pm and 7-9pm.
* The Action For ME website offers fact files, a list of available publications and an overview of current research. Go to www.afme.org.ukinfocentre.asp.
* To download a copy of the 2002 report by an independent working group to the chief medical officer, visit the Department of Health website at www.dh.gov.uk and search "CFSME".
* The Issue: chronic fatigue, TESFriday magazine, October 28 2005.