For most parents and their kids, summer time is seen as a great opportunity to get outside, play and catch some rays. However, don’t discount the prospect of illness or disease this summer. Therefore, this feature aims to educate parents on understanding summer illnesses, and communicate opinions of expert paediatricians from the region on precautions parents should take to keep their kids healthy in Summer.
Key risks to children over the summer
Summer heat is harsh and specially for young children who don’t know how to protect themselves. Children are vulnerable to a number of health risks during summer such as insect bites, dehydration, falls, injuries, burns, swimmer’s ear and infections. According to Dr. Mfed Mosely, Consultant Neonatologist & Pediatrician of Medeor 24x7 International Hospital, Al Ain, children can drown in as little as an inch of water in a swimming pool so always use floatation devices when swimming with your child and never leave them unattended. While you're enjoying the water don’t forget to apply sunscreen often to protect your child from any harmful UV rays. Invest in a good quality insect repellent as mosquitoes are a possible vector for disease.
Dr. Zaid Al Aubaidi, Consultant Pediatric Orthopedic & Pediatric Spine Surgeon at Burjeel Hospital for Advanced Surgery, Dubai said, “In a hot summer, dehydration among kids is very common as they forget to drink water while they play and could get a heat stroke as well.”
Early signs to look out for the most common illness
According to from Dr. Mazen Abou Chaaban, Consultant Pediatrician & Pediatric Nephrologist from Emirates Specialty Hospital, early signs to look out for the most common illness are loss of appetite, headache or dizziness, sleep disturbance, loss on concentration, lack of socialisation and gastric & abdominal problems. The signs can vary from one illness to another.
Dr. Mfed Mosely of Medeor 24x7 International Hospital spoke about early signs of summer flu virus, diarrhoea and swimmers ear.
Summer flu virus
If your child has a fever, is experiencing headaches, has a sore throat, complains of body aches, and is vomiting, your child may have the summer flu virus.
Constant bathroom breaks combined with loose and watery stools are a possible indication of diarrhoea.
If your child is experiencing ear pain with yawning or swallowing and if pus is draining from the ear canal, your
child may have swimmers ear.
Dr. Rouba Abdennour, specialist in Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine at Shamma Clinic said, “The most common summer illness is gastroenteritis, which results from bacteria or viruses that children catch from eating contaminated food or drinks, or swimming in contaminated pools. These germs can lead to inflammation of the intestines, causing vomiting and/or diarrhoea. The main concern with these illnesses is the risk of dehydration. Parents should watch out for any signs of dehydration, which include: dry lips, dry mouth, decreased urine output (no urine for 8 hours) or dark-coloured urine, lack of energy, crying without tears, cold or dry skin, and thirst.”
Dr. Rouba Abdennour further added, “Children who spend long hours playing outside in hot and humid weather, parents should also look out for symptoms like headache, feeling faint or dizzy, excessive sweating and muscle cramps. These can be a manifestation of heat exhaustion, which, if left untreated, can lead to heat stroke. Prolonged or unprotected sun exposure can make the children’s skin turn pink, which is an early sign of sunburn that parents should be aware of.”
According to Dr. Zaid Al Aubaidi of Burjeel Hospital, if there are any injuries during summer time, there could be sprains and fractures where one should monitor the size of the fracture based on the swelling, redness, discolouration and loss of unction of the extremity. And in case of any suspicion we should take our kids to the doctor.
Steps to take if kids fall sick
First of all, parents should not panic. After reading the early signs of illness, parents should try to treat those at home, as advised by field experts. If a child does not recover, they should immediately visit a doctor.
Additionally, Dr. Mazen Abou Chaaban from Emirates Specialty Hospital advises parents to get closer to their children & try to solve their psychological problems. Let them feel they are good supported not alone.
Summer flu virus
Dr. Mfed Mosely of Medeor 24x7 International Hospital, Al Ain said, “Don’t panic! If you believe your child has the summer flu virus you can use Tylenol or Ibuprofen to reduce the fever and treat any body aches. Throat lozenges, tea and gargling warm salt water work great for treating a sore throat.
“If your child is vomiting, restrain from giving them any solid foods and only allow small sips of water as your child's body purges itself. This is known as total bowel rest, let the worst of it pass. If after 8 hours your child is persistently vomiting then go to a doctor for a checkup. Remember to give your child lots of fluids to help recovery and do not give your child any antibacterial medication as the Summer Flu is caused by a virus, not bacteria,” added Dr. Mfed Mosely of Medeor 24x7 International Hospital, Al Ain.
Dr. Rouba Abdennour of Shamma Clicnic said that children with diarrhoea should drink oral rehydration solution after each bowel movement. Children with persistent vomiting or refusal to drink fluids should visit the doctor for adequate treatment to prevent dehydration.
“To treat swimmer's ear you can use medication ear drops obtainable from your doctor. Pain usually subsides within 24 hours after the medication is applied and with daily treatment the infection usually clears up after a week” , informed Dr. Rouba Abdennour.
Heat exhaustion and sun burn
Dr. Rouba Abdennour of Shamma Clinic said, “ Children with symptoms of heat exhaustion should be immediately moved to a cool dry place, offered fluids to drink, and given a shower to help their body cool down. If the symptoms persist or if the child complains of headache, loss of consciousness or high fever, parents should seek immediate medical attention. For children who show signs of sunburn, we recommend moving them to the shade, giving them a cool bath, and applying moisturisers that contain aloe vera. If blisters are present, do not break them, and visit the paediatrician for further treatment.
Dr. Zaid Al Aubaidi of Burjeel Hospital said, “ In regards to any fractures and muscular skeletal injuries those should be checked by a paediatrics orthopaedics surgeon as quick as possible to ensure there are no dangerous fractures that could affect the child’s growth in the future.”
Steps to follow to keep your kids healthy
Dr. Ghassan Soud, Consultant Paediatrician at Mediclinic Al Bahr stressed, “Avoid being in the sun between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., and stay in a shaded area as much as possible. The American Cancer Society suggests a sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher. Remember to reapply sunscreen frequently - about every 2 hours, when it comes to babies, apply just a small amount to a baby’s face, hands, and neck, the better option for infants is to dress them in light clothing, sunglasses, and hats; and to keep them in the shade as much as possible”
Dr. Ghassan Soud further added,“To reduce the risk of insect stings and bites, insist that your kids wear light colored clothing and shoes when playing outside, cover children with lightweight clothing and use mosquito netting over stroller and infant seat. When choosing bug repellents this summer, know that the most effective products contain DEET because it's proven to repel both mosquitoes and ticks, but not for babies under 2 months old, apply the repellent once a day and don't use combination sunscreen/bug repellent products."