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Pupils face risk of 3 infections as school resumes

Children will develop at least six to eight colds a year, say experts

Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News
From left: Dr Medhat Abu Shaaban, Jessica Sawyer, dietician,and Elena Maria Andrioti, clinical psychologist, at the ‘Backto-School health checklist’ round table yesterday.
Gulf News

Dubai: Cold and flu, sore throat and ear infection are the top three common infections suffered by students at the beginning of the school year, an expert said.

With the academic year just around the corner, Dubai Healthcare City invited experts to highlight the different psychological, physical and nutritional aspects that affect children’s health during school.

The event was held to help educate parents about everyday challenges for pupils going back to school next week.

Dr Medhat Abu Shaaban, consultant on the Paediatrics and Allergy American Board, said there are many reasons that cause cold and flu, sore throat and ear infection to spread at the beginning of the year.

“This is because the cold and flu viruses tend to spread during the fall and winter seasons, which happen to be the time when schools start. Children staying together in a closed space for hours is another reason for the spread of infections.”

Dr Abu Shaaban said unfortunately many parents send their sick children to school because they do not want them to miss any school days or because they have work and there is no one to take care of them.

He said this can be very critical since it only takes one child to spread the virus.

The doctor said that common cold and flu cases, which are contracted by most children six to eight times a year (mostly between September and April) account for five per cent of paediatric visits while ear infections account for more than 35 per cent of paediatric visits.

“There are more cold and flu cases than ear infection but parents don’t visit the doctor every time their child has cold sypmtoms, but when the child is screaming from pain because of ear infections, they would visit the doctor right away,” he said.

When it comes to sore throat, he said more than 50 per cent of sore throats are caused by viruses and that a paediatrician can indicate if it is a viral infection or a bacteria within three minutes using a rapid strep test.

“If it is a virus then antibiotics should not be prescribed because it is useless and can be harmful for the child.”

Antibiotic overuse

Dr Abu Shaaban warned parents not to overuse antibiotics.

He said that studies by the United States Centres for Disease Control and Prevention indicate that 30 to 50 per cent of antibiotics prescribed are unnecessary or inappropriate.

“This can lead to a surge in superbugs, bacteria that are increasingly resistant to antibiotics.”

Prevention

Viruses can be spread through sneezing, coughing, talking, laughing or by touching contaminated surfaces.

In order to prevent the virus from spreading, Dr Abu Shaaban said, hand washing for 20 seconds is the best way to avoid viruses and bacteria. He also said covering the mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing is important. He advised pupils to do so using a tissue or a sleeve as bacteria can stay live on surfaces for 24 hours. Keeping hands away from eyes and mouth, not sharing water bottles,food and personal items as well as taking flu vaccine are other important measures.

“I recommend students take flu shots betweem September and November. Children as young as six months of age can take it. ”

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