The prolonged UAE summer with its rising temperature exposes us to many health risks. As you enjoy outdoor activities, travels and vacations with your loved ones, keep in mind a number of summer-specific health concerns, especially when it comes to children.
This is a common problem that occurs when water intake does not compensate for water loss. The risk of dehydration is heightened in the summer season, when the body loses water and salts in the form of excess sweat. For normal functioning of the body, take plenty of fluids regularly to replenish the system.
2. Heatstroke and heat exhaustion
Direct exposure to summer heat for prolonged periods could lead to heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Heatstroke is one of the most serious forms of heat-related conditions, as it can lead to kidney, brain, heart and muscular damage. To prevent heatstroke, avoid long exposure to direct heat, especially during the peak hours of noon, and stay hydrated. Symptoms of heatstroke include high body temperature, nausea, flushed skin, mental confusion, racing heart rate and headaches. Seek immediate medical attention if you or your children experience any of these.
While summer seems like the perfect time to get a nice tan, careless exposure to direct sunlight can cause sunburn. Harmful ultraviolet radiations cause damage to skin cells, leaving skin reddish, warm and irritated.
Apply water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or greater and cover up using hats and gloves before stepping outdoors. For immediate relief, take cool baths or gently apply cool wet clothes on the burned area.
You must take ample care of your family, so that the season only brings you lots of exercise and vitamin D intake, and not result in unnecessary trips to the hospital.
4. Eye damage
Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light can cause damage to the retina, lens or cornea of the eyes. Sunburned eyes become red, dry, and painful, and feel gritty. Chronic exposure of eyes to sunlight may cause tissue growth and cataracts and can even lead to blindness. Wearing sunglasses with UV protection can help avoid eye damage.
“Summer is a fun yet tricky season,” says Dr Adil Sajwani, Family Medicine Specialist, Fakeeh University Hospital. “We tend to gravitate towards the sunshine and be involved in increased outdoor activities. However, it is important to ensure proper caution with this weather. You must take ample care of your family, so that the season only brings you lots of exercise and vitamin D intake, and not result in unnecessary trips to the hospital due to dehydration and heat. In case of emergency, however, any kind of delay is not advisable.”
Children-specific concerns in the summer also include:
1. Infectious diseases
Children are more prone to a number of infectious diseases during summer. Parents should remain watchful and note symptoms early on, to limit the spread of the infections to other children and even adults. Fortunately, all these infections are vaccine preventable. Due to the contagious nature of these infections, it is very important to ensure that your child’s vaccination is on track and all booster shots are administered, preferably before the peak summer heat begins.
2. Prickly heat
Prickly heat, or heat rash, develops when blocked pores (sweat ducts) trap perspiration under the skin. While it can happen to adults as well, it is most common in children. Symptoms range from superficial blisters to deep, red lumps that may be intensely itchy. To prevent it, avoid tight-fitting garments and opt for soft, lightweight, cotton clothing for your child.
Parents have an increased responsibility of keeping a close watch on children and indulge in a little extra care.
3. Recreational activities
If your child is involved in swimming, sun protection is vital. Children’s skin is sensitive and the chlorine in pools can strip away UV-blocking properties of sunscreen. Sunscreens should be reapplied periodically. Children who swim routinely, should do so early in the morning or in the late evening, to avoid exposure to strong sunlight during the day.
“Children will usually not understand that they are having a medical issue, unless absolutely pronounced,” says Dr Sanjay Perkar, Specialist Pediatrician, Fakeeh University Hospital. “Thus, parents have an increased responsibility of keeping a close watch on them and indulge in a little extra care; albeit, without hampering their freedom to be outdoors. Do not hesitate to contact your pediatrician in case you notice anything amiss.”
Always carry a proper first aid kit with supplies to treat common physical injuries and insect bites, when taking children for outdoor activities.
A little bit of prevention will go a long way in having a refreshing summer.