Study links test scores, pollen counts

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

We’ve called the Iowa Breakfast Study into question because it was funded by breakfast cereal companies, but there’s no doubt nutrition and other physiological factors play a part in mental performance.

There’s more evidence of that, and it shows that you might want to consider the season when you send your students off to take the ACT or SAT tests that will determine whether they win scholarships.

Simon Bensnes, a Ph.D. candidate at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, compared data from almost 70,000 high school exit exams, with pollen count data from the numerous places and times each student took each exam.

Other demographic and air-quality data was plugged in as well.

Bensnes concluded that a pollen count of 37 grains per cubic meter of air resulted in a drop of about a tenth of a point in exam scores.

Every year, American children lose about two million school days because of pollen allergies. Even if they can make it to school, hay fever symptoms such as sneezing, itching and runny nose can disrupt sleep and interfere with learning.

Allergy medicines create their own issues, causing sleepiness or jitters.

Pollen.com, which monitors allergy counts and offers alerts for every area, offers some advice:

* Keep your windows closed in you home and car to avoid letting in pollen when the count is high. Set your air conditioners to recirculate in you home and vehicle to avoid introducing more pollen.

* Pollen counts are highest between 5 and 10 a.m., so limit your time outside during those times.

* Avoid line drying clothes and bedding outdoors when the count is high.

* Wash your face and hands after you’ve been outside to remove pollen. Also, change wash clothes if they’ve been exposed to pollen.

* Bath and shampoo hair daily to keep it off your bedding, and wash bedding in hot, soapy water once a week.

* Minimize contact with items that have come in contact with pollen, such as pets and people who have spent a large amount of time outdoors.

* Check with your allergist or doctor to see if you need a shot, and be consistent with your medications.

A study similar to the Norwegian one found that a doubling of the pollen count results in a 1 or 2 percent drop in the proportion of third graders passing English and math achievement tests.

Teachers can tell you there is an unending list of factors that can make their task more difficult, from nutrition to home life to learning disabilities.

Parents might not think to include allergies on that list, but the latest studies indicate that they should.

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