Exam stress affects students’ health and performance

Pharmacists offer advice to students and parents

1 June 2018: Next week will see over 100,000 students start their Leaving and Junior cert exams. Ahead of what can be an anxious and difficult time for students and families, pharmacists advise that taking proactive steps to managing exam stress can prevent it having a negative impact on health and ultimately exam performance.

According to Elaine Clarke, a member of the IPU’s Executive Committee and a community pharmacist, “While it is normal for everyone to feel a little nervous before these big exams it is important to prevent stress taking hold. Stressed students can experience insomnia, stomach upsets, diarrhoea, cold sores and tension headaches. All of these can negatively impact on their performance. Furthermore, students with conditions such as asthma, sinusitis or allergic reactions can find those aggravated at exam time.

“After years of work to get to these exams, no student or parent wants a bout of ill-health to impact on study, or indeed on the exam itself. At this time of year, pharmacists are frequently asked by concerned parents how to keep their child who is sitting exams healthy and free of stress. Obviously it is not possible to suppress people’s nerves entirely, but we always advise that there is a number of positive measures that students should take to stay healthy,” said Ms Clarke.

Tips from Pharmacists to prevent Exam Stress:

Promote good health: Eat regular, well-balanced, healthy meals, scheduled study breaks, take exercise and make sure to get sufficient sleep. Consider taking multivitamins if your diet is not ideal.

Headache: Drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration. Study in a well-ventilated room and take regular breaks.

Stomach upsets: Try to eat well. Eat small amounts regularly and avoid junk and spicy foods.

Eczema: Keep the skin well moisturised with ointments and lotions. Avoid products with a high alcohol content as these can irritate sensitive skin.

Asthma: Use inhalers as advised by your pharmacist. Preventative inhalers should be used regularly. Carry an inhaler with you at all times so that it can be used during an exam, if required.

Hay Fever: If you suffer with hay fever, keep doors and windows closed when studying, and avoid going outdoors when the pollen count is at its highest. Students who need to take antihistamines should make sure to take tablets that don’t cause drowsiness.

Insomnia: Make sure to get enough sleep. Avoid products containing caffeine. Take some light exercise or a bath or shower in order to relax before bedtime. Don’t study in bed as the brain will become over-stimulated.


For further information: Brian Harrison, MKC Communications, 087 921 1841