The school year is right around the corner and as all parents have their children's health and best interests in mind, it can be stressful getting them ready for the academic year.
In recent years, there has been an increase in health concerns and there have been many discussions and thoughts about protecting children, especially in terms of going back to school healthy and ready to learn.
To help make the transition into the new academic year easy, Connector in conversation with doctors in the UAE, has provided some ways to help your children start the new year in a healthy and safe way.
Getting a whole health check-up done before the start of the academic year for your child can help alleviate the stress felt about your child's well-being and gives a sense of relief knowing they are going back to school in good health.
Dr Romulo Dimarucut, Specialist Paediatrician at Mediclinic Deira and Al Quasis said that, “Before the start of a new school year, it is recommended that your child undergoes a complete physical exam with your paediatrician or your health care provider. A complete physical exam involves a complete medical history, anthropometric measurements, which includes height, weight, and body mass index, determination of blood pressure, vision exam, nutritional evaluation, dental examination, developmental assessment, hearing test, and immunisation status update."
However, certain children suffer from chronic diseases, and as these can be serious concerns, they should not be taken without care, and discussing a plan of action with your child's doctor will help get them ready to go back to school.
"Parents of children who have chronic diseases like asthma, eczema, diabetes, epilepsy, etc, should find this time as an opportunity to consult their respective doctors for an overall assessment," advised Dr Shahid Ali, Consultant Paediatrician at Mediclinic Dubai Mall. "September is thought to be a season for the onset of flu and other common respiratory infections and many patients with asthma can develop acute complications during this time."
Keeping your child aware and making them have input is key as it assists them in managing their chronic diseases better as well as making informed choices.
Additionally, immunisations help keep your child safe from various diseases and Dr Shahid Ali, Consultant Paediatrician at Mediclinic Dubai Mall added that "Making sure the child is fully immunised in accordance with the UAE schedule helps protect them as well as the children around them. Annual immunisation against influenza is not a routine part of UAE government vaccination schedule but it is something that I would strongly recommend. New vaccine is usually launched in autumn each year and, as soon as it becomes available in local clinics, parents should get their children vaccinated. Keeping in mind the current COVID-19 situation, I would also advise eligible children to be given this vaccine as per local government policy.”
As well as the standard tests within a typical check-up, children that have travelled to and from certain countries are advised to take further tests. Dr Ashok Lodha, Specialist Paediatrician and Neonatologist at Dubai London Hospital advised that, “A paediatrician will conduct a routine general and systemic examination to rule out any illness, including dental and vision examinations; an anthropometry examination to see for any major weight loss or weight gain; and check vaccination status, especially if there is a travel history in endemic zones for malaria, dengue, meningitis, typhoid or COVID-19. Give influenza shots, as influenza season is approaching, and check for worm infestation.”
Once the school year begins, the whole process is an extremely stimulating experience for children. Following these tips can help ensure their safety.
Washing hands: Dr Romulo Dimarucut, Specialist Paediatrician at Mediclinic Deira and Al Quasis said, "Basic handwashing and hygiene should be emphasised to prevent the transfer of infections." As kids are busy running around and playing as well as studying, there are so many surfaces and things touched throughout the day. Educating children to wash their hands before eating as well as to avoid touching their faces is important.
Prioritise mental health: Schools are a turbulent time for children and making sure they do not get affected by the stress is extremely important. By incorporating stimulating activities as well as spending quality time, it can help manage their stress load. Dr Ashok Lodha, Specialist Paediatrician and Neonatologist at Dubai London Hospital advised that, "Improving EQ (emotional quotient) and SQ (spiritual quotient), having at least one major meal together with the whole family, and at that time, switching phones and TV off, participating in household chores for the team and temperament-building skills, and participating in volunteer activities on weekends." This can help keep a child happy while also staying productive.
Balanced diet: Dr Shahid Ali, Consultant Paediatrician at Mediclinic Dubai Mall said that kids should "Eat healthy food, avoid junk food but occasional treats are fine and drink plenty of water." Nutritious food always helps keep children energised and full of energy. Junk food, although tasty, can make them lethargic and can take a toll on their overall health in the long run. Making nutritious meals that are filling is key for their well-being as well as drinking enough water to stay hydrated. Dr Carol Wehbe Chidiac, Medical Advisor at Allied Medical Center added, "Kids tend to overindulge over the summer, but this does not mean strict restrictions and no desserts now. Kids should eat all types of food, including sugar, as long as it is part of a healthy variety."
Spend time outdoors: Making time for kids to run around is important as it helps keep them active, focused, able to manage stress and not develop issues. Dr Romulo Dimarucut, Specialist Paediatrician at Mediclinic Deira and Al Quasis said, "They should have enough intentional play and physical exertion outdoors, running, walking, dancing and more during the school day." Dr Syed Anees, Chief of Pediatrics at Medcare Pediatrics Centre advised, "Play outdoors will ensure enough sunlight." When kids play outdoors, they can enjoy the sunlight, reducing the chances of vitamin D deficiency. As kids are now exposed to the digital world daily, limiting screen time is essential and as Dr Shahid Ali, Consultant Paediatrician at Mediclinic Dubai Mall mentioned, "In the era of tablets and mobile phones, physical activity amongst children has decreased that results in obesity and unhealthy lifestyle." Dr Carol Wehbe Chidiac, Medical Advisor at Allied Medical Center, further added "If signing up your kids for any kind of physical activity, ensure that they are training with an expert who specialises in working with kids. Key is to make physical activity fun and not a chore - both for kids and adults."
Set bedtime: Establishing a sleep routine and setting a bedtime is a priority while returning to school. Going to bed late causes children to end up tired throughout the day and unable to focus on the things happening at school. Dr Syed Anees, Chief of Pediatrics at Medcare Pediatrics Centre said "Sleep is important, young kids should get 9 to 11 hours of a good night's sleep." By setting a bedtime routine and going to bed early, children will be able to wake up easily and not struggle with fatigue throughout the day. Dr Romulo Dimarucut, Specialist Paediatrician at Mediclinic Deira and Al Quasis added that "School kids should get enough sleep as the lack of it can lead to poor concentration, obesity, depression, suicidal ideation and injuries. Length varies for each age group but the most crucial part is to have a set bedtime and establish a sleep routine every night." Dr Ashok Lodha, Specialist Paediatrician and Neonatologist at Dubai London Hospital also mentioned that, "Stop screen time one hour before sleep, as the blue light emitted from mobiles reduces melatonin (sleep hormone) levels, which results in poor sleep. Switch off WiFi and mobile phones during sleeping hours because the non-ionising radiation emitted by WiFi and mobile phones are biohazardous and may disrupt the sleep cycle."
Following certain processes, including regular check ups, required immunisations and setting routines, will help in the long run, but won't prevent everything. As Dr Shahid Ali, Consultant Paediatrician at Mediclinic Dubai Mall said, "During early nursery and school years, it is common for children to catch frequent colds and coughs. 8 to 10 infections are common in one year. Most of these infections are minor and self-limiting."
Parents know their children the best and can identify if they are starting to or feeling sick.
If a child is unwell, other kids can also get sick. Dr Syed Anees, Chief of Pediatrics at Medcare Pediatrics Centre added that "Parents should refrain from sending children to school if they notice fever, sore throat, runny nose and rash over the skin. A child who has diarrhoea, vomiting or mucus in their eyes should not go to school or day care."
If your child, Dr Romulo Dimarucut, Specialist Paediatrician at Mediclinic Deira and Al Quasis said, is feeling these symptoms, immediate medical care should be given.
- Fast breathing, trouble breathing, shortness of breath
- Bluish, purplish or grey skin colour, especially around the lips and the inside of the mouth, or around the nails
- Not drinking enough fluids, refusing to drink
- Not urinating, decreased number of wet diapers or no tears when crying
- Severe or persistent vomiting and/or diarrhoea
- Lethargic or not interacting
- Being so irritable that the child does not want to be held or is inconsolable
- Pain or pressure in the chest or stomach
- Sudden dizziness
- Confusion or any unusual behaviour that deviates from the child’s norm
As children are still developing, getting sick is a common issue all face and is not one of concern, unless showing extreme symptoms.
When going back to school, following basic hygiene practices will help ensure your child's safety and have them ready and fit throughout the academic year.
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