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.