Dubai, UAE: Despite good quality of food, water and air-conditioning, and dust control, respiratory and gastro-intestinal infections are quite frequently observed in children here, said Dr Tanmay R Amladi, Specialist Pediatrician, Zulekha Hospital, Dubai.
These are easily the two most common medical complaints for which parents visit a pediatrician, he added.
Respiratory infections spread through ‘droplet infections’ — minute drops of mucus filled with bacteria or viruses which are coughed up or sneezed out into the air from an infected patient.
Young children are unaware of ‘cough etiquette’ — they often sneeze or cough without covering their noses or mouths in an air-conditioned environment of a classroom, day-care centre or nursery.
Young children may inadvertently spread the infection through their hands contaminated with germs. Bottles used for feeding infants and pacifiers are other potential sources as these are in the mouths of babies and children for prolonged periods.
Sometimes the caretakers may be sources of infection. Lastly the air-con filters if not cleaned manually and if the classrooms, day-care units and nurseries are not vacuumed on a regular basis, there can be a higher concentration of germs in these areas. Parents and teachers should teach their children to cover their mouths and nose when coughing or sneezing. Teachers and care-providers may provide masks for infected children.
Children with severe cough or fever are best isolated from the rest of the class. Bottle-feeding should certainly be discouraged especially after 10 months of age. School authorities should ensure regular air-con servicing and vacuuming in addition to daily sweeping and swabbing.
Gastrointestinal infections — vomiting, loose motions, colitis, typhoid and viral hepatitis — are spread through the ‘Famous Five’ — food, fluids, fingers, flies and fomites. Fomites are infected personal belongings like handkerchiefs, mobile phones etc. Food-handlers with poor personal hygiene can be a potential source.
Houseflies should be eliminated as they can spread not only gastroenteritis but also dysentery, typhoid and hepatitis.
Prevention of gastrointestinal infections is easier since they don’t spread through the air. Hand washing is probably the simplest and most effective method of preventing these infections. Ensuring clean and hygienic food and water, and also equally clean containers for storing and dispensing these is another important step in prevention. So protecting your child against the two most common infections – respiratory and gastrointestinal – needs a multi-pronged approach.
© Khaleej TimesNov 2012