DUBAI: It’s that time of the year again when the weather turns hot and humid, bringing with it many seasonal afflictions that can ruin a child’s summer holidays. The most common infections now will be viral colds and cough and parents should watch out for viral gastroenteritis that could result due to indiscriminate eating out. If you are not a 100 per cent sure about the hygiene standard of a food outlet, avoid it, advises Dr Jalil Ahmad, specialist paediatrician, International Modern Hospital, Dubai.
The other common source of summer infections occurs due to time spent in swimming pools, a favourite summer activity. Diving into poorly maintained swimming pools may not only cause ear infections but possibly sinusitis (sinus inflammation) which can be either bacterial or viral.
“If a child has an outer ear infection or a pus discharge from the ear, he should not go swimming. A child having a milder ear infection can use ear plugs before jumping into the water. But avoid going into the deep end as high water pressure can cause the ear membrane to rupture,” says Dr Ahmad.
Children catch infections easily, so please do not kiss or cuddle a small child when you have a cold, he warns. This is one of the most common reasons for transmission of infection from an adult to a child. “Parents also neglect to wash their hands after handling a sick child and when they hold or hug an older child, they pass on the infection to him,” says Dr Ahmad.
Another thing to watch out for is sending a sick child to school. One thing leads to another and before you know it, there is a sudden spurt in infections.
Children smaller than the age of three are more vulnerable to infections. But even in the age group of 3-7, children fall sick more often as they start going to nursery and play school and are exposed to new infections. It is only at the age of seven that they develop immunity to these infections, says Dr Ahmad.
To keep your children healthy and capable of warding off infections in summer, make sure they drink plenty of fluids throughout the day. See to it that they eat only fresh food and cut down on food from outside as far as possible to avoid stomach upsets, he advises.
Also teach your children the benefits of proper hand washing. Lack of hand hygiene is one of the biggest reasons for the spread of infections, so children should be disciplined into keeping clean hands when eating. Teach them to use a hand sanitiser if water and soap are not immediately available and wear a face mask to prevent spread of infection when coughing.
In terms of personal hygiene, summer is particularly important, even for children, says Dr Ahmad. Make sure your child bathes daily and if has spent a lot of time outdoors, make sure he has a bath before bedtime.
Parents must ensure their home is well ventilated and rooms are exposed to sunlight as it works as disinfectant, says Dr Ahmad. While asthma is prevalent throughout the year, more cases come to the hospitals and clinics because of the increase in dust in the atmosphere.
Nearly 15 per cent children in UAE suffer from asthma as do about 1 in 8 residents.
Common infections in Summer:
Viral Cold and Cough
--This is the most common infectious disease and children get as many as eight colds per year.
--Dry air can lower the resistance to infection by the viruses that cause colds.
--Symptoms are a runny nose, and sneezing. Children may also have a sore throat, cough, headache and mild fever.
--Most colds clear up after a week but some last two weeks.
--You should bring down the child’s fever with ibuprofen.
--Do not use OTC (over the counter) antihistamines or decongestants.
--Use saline drops to relieve nasal congestion.
--Check with a doctor if he child coughs up lot of mucus, has shortness of breath and high fever.
--Most viral infections have to run their course and the child will need rest and should drink plenty of fluids.
--This affects the middle ear and is a bacterial infection.
--The ear will become painful as trapped, infected fluid puts pressure on eardrum.
--There could be a hearing problem and some children will feel dizzy.
--As this is bacterial infection an antibiotic or antibiotic ear drops will be needed.
--For pain relief an ibuprofen will help. Most earaches will hurt during the night.
-- You can also put an ice pack over the ear to reduce the swelling.
--Ear infections are not contagious.
--Get a doctor to check eardrum after two weeks, specially if the infection had caused a hole in eardrum.
--This could be caused either by a virus, bacteria or parasites in the intestines.
--The stools will come often and will be loose.
--Severe diarrhoea is when the stools become watery.
--Make sure the child is not dehydrated. Extra fluids and diet change works best.
--Do not give fruit juices.
--Give bread, crackers, dried cereal and yogurt is good for the stomach.
--Get to a doctor if there is mucus or pus in the stools.
--A mild diarrhoea should not last more than two weeks.
Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)
--Common symptoms are a burning sensation when urinating, or pain.
--There will be an urge to urinate frequently.
--The urine could smell foul and looks cloudy or may be bloody.
--In babies frequent diaper changes will help prevent spread of bacteria that cause this infection.
--Children should be taught good hygiene to prevent UTI and to wash up properly after urination.
--Never hold back urine as urine in bladder helps bacteria to grow.
--Other ways to avoid UTI is to drink plenty of fluids and avoid caffeinated drinks.
--Most of such infections are cured within a week.
--A urine test will show doctor the type of bacteria causing the infection and he will prescribe the best medication for it.
--Make sure the infection has been completely cleared as an UTI can once spread again if not treated properly.