As children settle back into a new school year after the long summer break, it’s time to make friends, learn new subjects and develop important skills to thrive tomorrow.
However, no matter how committed and content a student is, if they are not in the best of health, they won’t get the most from their school days.
But, what is it about the new school term that can cause illness and weakened immunity for so many children?
“Even healthy children often get unwell after they return from a vacation,” says Dr Sathiya Jayapal, Consultant Paediatrician at American Hospital Dubai.
“It is often contributed by many factors, such as pre-existing illness getting worse, lack of adequate sleep, fatigue as a result of hectic travel plans and change of weather, which can often make children more vulnerable.”
Children can get sick by being in contact with other kids, says Dr Badi Alatasi, Consultant Paediatrician at Valiant Clinic.
“Schools have many indoor activities and whenever there are many children together in a small space, there are chances of infections spreading easily. It is a well-known fact that respiratory viruses, affecting the nose, mouth and chest, spread more during winter than the warmer months. That’s why it is quite normal for children to develop respiratory issues as the temperature drops.”
Some of the most common diseases are minor fortunately, but, if in doubt, you should always consult your doctor. Common cold, flu, fever, sore throat, ear pain, allergies, food poisoning and stomach upsets are the common ailments among children. “Generally, they are minor ailments, as the majority of them are caused by viruses,” explains Dr Jayapal. “If your child is acutely unwell, do not hesitate to seek help from the doctor as they might be affected by bacterial infection, which necessitates prompt treatment.”
However, as the old adage goes, prevention is better than cure, and certainly there are many ways to limit exposure to diseases.
For a healthy school year, keep vaccinations up to date. “Also practice good hand hygiene — it is the most effective way to prevent the spread of colds, flu and viruses,” says Dr Rajeev Tomar, Consultant Paediatrician and Paediatric Hepatologist, King’s College Hospital London in Dubai.
Dr Alatasi agrees, saying, “Good hygiene practices such as washing hands or contained coughing and sneezing, a good diet, and getting enough sleep help strengthen the immunity in children to combat infections.”
The immune system depends on a range of micronutrients such as zinc, vitamin D and vitamin C. “If a child’s diet is limited in variety then it is unlikely they will get all these micronutrients to help the immune system function correctly,” explains Kristen Jackson, Dietician, King’s College Hospital London in Dubai.
As any parent will know, though, it isn’t always easy to pack in all the nutrients when you are travelling. Now with the children back into their routine, there is no excuse not to ensure a habit of healthy eating.
“Encourage a healthy breakfast routine at home to keep their mind alert,” says Zenia Menon, Nutritionist, Dubai Herbal and Treatment Centre.
“A balanced healthy diet plan with all macronutrients is ideal for children with the right combination of vegetables, fruit, healthy fats and good quality proteins,” she adds.
“Fibre-rich foods tend to be lower in calories, so diets rich in fruit, vegetables, wholegrains and beans can help reduce inflammation in the body, allowing their immune system to function better.”
The key to staying fit during the school year is to take precautions against diseases and to get into a healthy routine. That way, children can concentrate on their studies and forming new friendships, instead of being poorly in bed for the new term.
Caring for children’s skin
“Children have delicate and sensitive skin,” says Vishy Raman, Managing Director, Al Shabak General Trading, sole distributor of Mustela in the UAE and Oman. “Their immature skin barrier cannot provide full protection against external stress and environmental factors. As a result, their skin reacts, manifesting in the form of rashes. Some of the common factors for this condition are exposure to sun, use of strong detergents, fragranced soaps, hard water, excessive heat and synthetic clothes. If unattended, the condition can exacerbate, causing redness, burning, itching and tightness of the skin.
“As per recent studies, one in three children has very sensitive skin which needs specific care.
“Mustela, the skincare expert for newborn, babies and children, has a comprehensive range of products for the sensitive skin that hydrates, protects and soothes the skin. The products are fragrance free, with high tolerance formulations and free of any questionable ingredients.”
— GN Focus report