The summer season can be quite harsh in Dubai. When temperatures start to soar and humidity levels reach above 80%, we need to look after our children beyond keeping them indoors and hydrated. Almost all of us are aware of the common illnesses such as sunstroke, dehydration and heat rashes, and we are usually ready to protect our children from them. However, these are not the only ones, there are many more. As summer returns, it’s important to read and recap your knowledge on all the possible common summer illnesses among children and how we can avoid and treat them.
“When summers are intense, kids are the first casualty and they soon end up with some of the commonest summer diseases. Diarrhea, cough, cold and fever, apart from sunstroke are common. However, with careful handling and precautions taken well in time, these diseases can well be avoided. A healthy and nourishing diet can also play its own important role in staving off summer type infections and diseases”, says Dr. Amarendra Prasad - Specialist Pediatrician, Zulekha Hospital Dubai.
Common Children’s Summer Illnesses
Kids are most likely to get swimmer’s ear after they spend time in the sea and pool. Sometimes water can get trapped inside the ear creating a moist environment which enhances bacterial and fungal growth. Swimmer's ear is an infection of the outer ear canal caused by these bacteria or fungi.
• Itchiness in the ear
• Severe pain when yawning or swallowing
• Trouble hearing
• Fluid or pus draining out of the ear
What to do
Take the child to the doctor to examine the ear properly. If Swimmer’s ear is detected, the doctor will prescribe the suitable local antibiotic or antifungal ear drops.
Dr. Riham Ammar, Consultant Pediatrician at Mediclinic Al Sufouh says, “Try to prevent water from getting stuck in the ear canal- dry your children’s’ ears thoroughly after swimming or showering using a towel. Wearing earplugs whilst in water may also help.”
Food Poisoning And Diarrhoea
Bacteria multiply faster during hotter and more humid months. When food is left out during the summer, it attracts bacteria and may result in food poisoning. Microorganisms breed in the digestive tract, leading to infection and symptoms such as diarrhoea, vomiting and pain in the stomach, and sometimes fever.
• Drink plenty of water, Ideal fluids would be electrolytes or sports drinks
• Milk should be avoided until diarrhoea stops.
• If the child continues to vomit, evaluation by the pediatrician or an ER would be useful.
• When the child is only suffering from diarrhoea, you should avoid juices due to the high sugar load
• Washing hands thoroughly especially before touching food
• Leftover food should be kept in the fridge where it can remain fresh or just thrown away
• “Reheating foods should be avoided as much as possible .Care should be taken to ingest foods soon after preparation. Eating out is another area where parents will have to be very careful”, says Dr. Noobi Koya, Specialist Pediatrician at Canadian Specialist Hospital.
• “Don’t forget that most of the food becomes harmful, if exposed to the heat, even for a short time. So you have to keep the food in special containers to maintain the proper temperature, to avoid gastro-intestinal disturbances, such as vomiting and diarrhoea”,
Eczema And Skin Rashes
Eczema is identified by an irritating skin rash caused due to skin allergies that grow and spread due to the heat of the summer.
• Wipe the skin when in sunshine so that no sweat builds up
• Use a hypoallergenic sunscreen and a skin moisturiser on your child’s skin each day.
• Let them wear cool clothing that does not irritate there skin
• Use calamine lotion or cool compresses to calm itchy, irritated skin
• Avoid using creams and ointments that contain petroleum or mineral oil, which can block pores further and cause more irritation.
• If the child’s skin is sensitive with severe redness, skin abrasion and signs of skin infection then you should take them to the doctor for the possibility of needing a local antibiotic and hydrocortisone creams.
Dress your kids in light clothing in order to reduce the risk of heat rash and try to avoid leaving them in hot humid areas for a long time.
Drowning is the leading cause for concern for young children aged 1 to 4 years. Children are at risk of drowning in just two inches of water. Children need to be supervised no matter what their swimming skills are, so don't assume anything.
• Make you child wear a proper life vest when they are near to water
• Always supervise your children when in or around water
• Learn cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). Your CPR skills could save someone’s life
Sun Stroke And Heat Stroke
Sudden exposure to heat can also cause sun stroke and the child suffers from high fever. Heat-related illness happens when the body’s temperature control system is overloaded. Infants and children up to 4 years of age are at greatest risk.
Sun stroke may cause rapid pulse, disorientation, nausea, a dry swollen tongue and dehydrated, hot skin. In extreme cases, sun stroke may cause your child to become unconscious.
• Encourage your child to drink cool fluids containing sugar and salts like cold electrolytes
• Put a cool, wet cloth or cool water on your child's skin
• Call your doctor for advice. If your child is too exhausted or ill to drink, take them to hospital as treatment with intravenous (IV) fluids may be necessary.
• Keep your kids in the shade during the heat of the day and ensure that they keep hydrated by having them drink lots of fluids
• Apply the sun block cream on the body, cover their head with a hat, put a t-shirt, and keep them under the umbrella, if they are not in the water
• For older children, sun block and hats are mandatory
Dr. Amarendra Prasad of Zulekha Hospital Dubai shares a few tips to prevent common summer diseases among children:
• Ensure that your child drinks liquids from time to time so that they do not get dehydrated. Fresh fruit juices are preferable to colas and other packaged drinks. It would help if they carried a few of their favorite beverages with them
• You and your child should maintain the highest level of hygiene and cleanliness at home and wherever else you might go
• Put them on a diet of rich in fibres, water-based fruits like water melon, minerals and vegetables
• Do not give them cut veggies and fruit or street food that may be spicy, cooked a long time ago and oily
• Dress your child in loose and lightweight cottons. Ensure that they wear a cap when they are outdoors and use sunscreen on the exposed parts of their body
• Keep your child indoors during the hottest parts of the day, i.e. 10am to 2pm
• Keep your child out of crowded areas and away from the direct glare of the sun
Summer is meant to be fun and filled with vacations and visiting grandparents back home, don’t let summer illnesses put a dampner on the whole jovial mood. Take these precautions to enjoy the best of the summer.