Sneezing and a runny nose can be a sign of allergic rhinitis. Image Credit: Supplied photo

The awesome months of winter in the UAE are welcome with an endless stream of outdoor activities for its residents — along with coughs, sniffles and examinations. I am grateful that we are spared the ‘examination’ bit as my children are yet to enter that phase of schooling, but there is no sure way of escaping the sneezes that develop into a cold and then a fever that makes a burning entry in the dead of a cold winter night when I have to toggle between checking temps, administering medications and comforting a delirious child while fighting off the urge to allow my drooping eyelids succumb to sweet slumber.

It is a joy to see the scorching days of summer give way to cool winter mornings, the gentle rays of the winter sun dancing about the immaculate blue skies wearing a scatter of clouds as migratory birds hop about the colourful flower beds that line the roads, the joys of an unexpected evening shower and foggy mornings. Every year, the husband and I resolve to take advantage of the weather and include a walk into our routine, but I have long since made peace with the fact that sticking to resolutions is not in my stars. Nor is a slim, trim and hour-glass shaped figure.

Spooling the tape back a few weeks this winter, I wished to make weekends special by spending as much time as I could outdoors, even if it was to be in the community park that was a stone’s throw from our building. Never mind the fact that this park was one of the advantages we had checked out when moving in, along with the pool and the gym, but it appears that it was easier to gather up a list of excuses as to why we did not frequent that spot even by the end of our first year of stay. And our list has since been growing.

My first stop was the events calendar in the Tabloid! section of this newspaper that listed out details of events in the UAE. Once I had zeroed in on the event that would hold the interest of my children and us, I meticulously planned out the weekend. My enthusiasm failed to ebb even after the husband appeared to only show interest in the culinary options available in the area when I shared my plans with him or when I heard Little Princess sneeze.

By Thursday evening, Little Princess had bright red patches on her face, a sore throat and a rasping cough. We spent the early hours of our meticulously planned fun weekend nursing a sick child who quivered with soaring temperatures. The rest of the weekend and the next four weekends were spent with paediatricians and general practitioner (GP) as we took turns borrowing the nasty cold from one another. I whiled away waiting time at the hospital catching up on all the details and pictures of the events that were keeping the happy and fun-loving residents of Dubai active in the Tabloid! Marathons, food fests, outdoor markets that sprang up in parks and the annual Gulf News Fun Drive came and went. I watched them through the eyes of reporters and photographers of Gulf News and social media.

On the plus side, the frequency of our visits encouraged the friendly staff at the hospital to welcome us with more-than-just pleasant smiles. I had even managed to make acquaintances with some of the other patients, who, like me, were frequenting the hospitals with their little ones. It felt strange that there were as many people crowding hospitals and clinics as much as there were in supermarkets, malls and parks.

I also learnt that doctors, nurses and hospital staff members were not immune to the innumerable cases of sick people that they were treating without contracting some of it themselves. On one of my visits to the GP, I learnt that the paediatrician had called in sick! I realised that being a good doctor was no easy task with getting to meet and treat sick children and exasperated sleep-deprived parents all day.

With just about a few weeks left before the mercury rises and with our household gradually making a return to some form of normality, we are hoping to go to any place other than a hospital. The husband is hoping to catch a movie, but there is no extensive planning involved for I am not looking forward to catching one of my children sneezing away our weekend plans — yet again.

Pranitha Menon is a freelance writer based in Dubai.