Dubai: It was the first day of winter break and my five-year-old daughter woke up with a pink eye. What I initially thought was a simple infection turned out to be conjunctivitis, which had been doing the rounds, according to the doctor we consulted as well as fellow parents we spoke to later.
The winter break can be tricky season for parents and children. While the weather is perfect for outdoor activities, children have an unbeatable knack of picking up infections with their curious little hands. Add to that the different infections that are in the air during the winter season, and you have yourself an abnormally anxious parent.
So, how exactly can parents balance out the need to take children out for fun-filled activities, without compromising on their health? Gulf News spoke with children’s doctors in the UAE to find out which infections you should watch out for and how to keep kids healthy during the winter season.
One of the top infections, doctors have reported among children is influenza – both Influenza A and B. Dr Sai Srinivas Bhagavatula, Specialist Pediatrics and Neonatology, Aster Hospital Qusais, said that the infection also tends to aggravate allergic symptoms in children with pre-existing conditions like asthma.
So, if your child has already shown signs of allergic or another type of asthma, you would be best advised to pay particular attention to hygiene practices at home to reduce their chances of catching an infection.
“Parents should be advised to follow clean hygienic practices and advise their children to do the same. Avoid overcrowded areas and look for signs like high fever, breathing difficulties and excessive tiredness," Dr Bhagavatula said.
It is also important to differentiate between a seasonal flu and a cold, as their symptoms and effects on the body can be different. A visit to the doctor should not be skipped, as tests need to be conducted to find out which type of flu you have, according to an advisory issued by the Dubai Health Authority earlier this month.
When it comes to eye-related infections in children, they may manifest as redness, itching, discharge, swelling, sensitivity to light or blurred vision. Conjunctivitis, commonly known as pink eye, is a prevalent eye infection during this time, according to Dr Bhagavatula, which should not be ignored.
“Immediate medical attention is essential upon noticing any eye-related symptoms in children. Practising good hygiene, such as frequent handwashing, avoiding touching or rubbing the eyes, and using separate towels and pillowcases, can help prevent the spread of infections. Treatment often involves prescribed eye drops or ointments to alleviate symptoms and clear the infection. Warm compresses and proper hygiene aid in soothing discomfort,” he added.
Immediate medical attention is essential upon noticing any eye-related symptoms in children. Practising good hygiene, such as frequent handwashing, avoiding touching or rubbing the eyes, and using separate towels and pillowcases, can help prevent the spread of infections. Treatment often involves prescribed eye drops or ointments to alleviate symptoms and clear the infection. Warm compresses and proper hygiene aid in soothing discomfort.
Dr Arianna Huerta Martinez, Specialist Paediatrician at Medcare Paediatric Speciality Centre, also spoke about the rise in eye infections among young patients in the past few weeks.
“We have observed a slight uptick in certain infections among children. Conjunctivitis, or pink eye, has been reported by several parents. Parents can start by encouraging good hygiene practices, like frequent handwashing to prevent the spread of conjunctivitis. If their child develops redness, discharge, or discomfort in the eyes, using a clean, damp cloth to gently wipe away any discharge can help. Over-the-counter artificial tears or prescribed eye drops, if recommended by a doctor, can help soothe irritation. If symptoms persist for more than a couple of days, worsen, or if there is increased redness, pain, or sensitivity to light, it's advisable to seek medical attention promptly,” she said.
Dr Martinez also advised parents to be vigilant for any signs of respiratory issues, such as coughs and colds that might affect the lungs and ears.
“While these aren't unusual for this time of year, it's always good for parents to be vigilant. If your child experiences prolonged coughing, earaches, or any breathing difficulties, it is advisable to seek medical attention promptly. Encouraging good hygiene practices, such as regular handwashing, the use of masks when sick, and keeping a close eye on symptoms can help in preventing the spread of these infections among children,” she said.
While these aren't unusual for this time of year, it's always good for parents to be vigilant. If your child experiences prolonged coughing, earaches, or any breathing difficulties, it is advisable to seek medical attention promptly. Encouraging good hygiene practices, such as regular handwashing, the use of masks when sick, and keeping a close eye on symptoms can help in preventing the spread of these infections among children.
When it comes to such respiratory issues, rest and good hydration are the best way to recovery.
“Using a cool-mist humidifier can help ease congestion. For infants or young children, saline drops can clear nasal passages. If symptoms worsen or persist for more than a week, if there's difficulty breathing, chest pain, high fever, or severe ear pain with fluid drainage, seeking medical advice promptly is recommended,” she added.
Speaking to a doctor is particularly important if you don’t see the symptoms abating. For specific advice tailored to the child's condition, it is important to consult a healthcare professional, especially if there are underlying health concerns or additional symptoms, according to Dr Martinez.
Four things you can do to tackle health concerns early
1. Good hygiene practices
This is a non-negotiable, according to doctors who spoke with Gulf News, when it comes to warding off infections. Regularly washing hands, wearing a mask if unwell, and not sharing personal items can go a long way in keeping children and the entire family away from infections.
2. Get them the right clothes
Layers are your best friend as a parent. As their body temperature can rise during outdoor activities, make sure you have the option to take off a sweater or jacket if needed.
3. Hydration helps in more ways than you think
Not only does having water bottles at hand help children stay fresh and active, but it can also help them regulate their body temperature as most of your child’s body is made up of water.
4. Warm-up and cool-down routines
A proper warm-up activity like a short walk, or marching in place, can help activate gradually raise the body temperature and activate and protect children’s muscles for more demanding physical activities. Similarly, cool down activities like touching your toes or other stretches allow the heart rate to return to normal after vigorous activities and the body to return more gradually to a base temperature. All these steps can reduce the strain and stress on the body.