UAE: Keep sick children home, wear masks, say doctors amid rise in infections

Following the reopening of schools, clinics have recorded more children showing symptoms of cough, runny nose, sore throat, and chest congestion

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Nandini Sircar

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Published: Mon 8 Jan 2024, 4:21 PM

Last updated: Tue 9 Jan 2024, 8:49 AM

Doctors in the UAE have observed a minimum 20 per cent surge in paediatric patient visits following the reopening of schools in January. Children are walk into the clinics with symptoms like coughing, a runny nose, congestion, and a sore throat.

Health professionals highlight that some are even experiencing difficulty breathing due to respiratory issues, probably linked to the recent global spread of the mutant coronavirus. In such cases, healthcare professionals advise parents to keep sick children at home to contain the spread of infection.

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Dr Wafa Elfatih Ibrahim Mohamed Nourain, Specialist Paediatrics, Burjeel Day Surgery Center, Al Shahama, said, “Many children got sick after returning from their holiday. There is an increase in the patient influx with the beginning of school and children returning after the holidays. There is a 15-20 per cent increase in patient flow in my clinic compared to the last month.”

Respiratory infections on the rise

She explained that several children are visiting the clinic due to symptoms of respiratory tract infections, “which vary in severity from simple flu to pneumonia in some cases.”

Dr Wafa Elfatih Ibrahim Mohamed Nourain
Dr Wafa Elfatih Ibrahim Mohamed Nourain

Dr Nourain added, “Additionally, many cases present with symptoms of gastrointestinal tract infections, such as vomiting, diarrhoea, and abdominal pain, with or without fever.”

Dr Malak Shaheen, consultant of paediatrics and paediatric allergy at Thumbay University Hospital, Ajman, said, “Our hospital has experienced a surge in paediatric patient footfall, with a notable increase of 35-40 per cent compared to last month.”

Immune system may be less active due to school break

Doctors emphasise a child's immune system may temporarily become less active as a result of the break, leaving them more vulnerable to diseases from new germs they come into contact with at school.

Dr Malak Shaheen
Dr Malak Shaheen

Dr Shaheen said, “Travelling during the vacation can also make it more likely that you will come into contact with people and settings that are contaminated. The immune system may be further weakened by the strain and exhaustion that come with making the adjustment from a holiday season to the rigorous schedule of school.”

Seeking medical advice from doctors right away is recommended if serious symptoms appear.

"In light of the recent outbreak of the mutant coronavirus, vigilance is essential. For example, even when an adult or kid is infected, traditional laboratory testing may produce negative results. So, it is critical to have increased awareness. Antiviral therapies can be started on time when prompt action is taken to enable early identification,” added Dr Shaheen.

Precautionary measures

Healthcare professionals underline that ensuring a healthy return to school requires collective effort.

She notes, "First and foremost, it is important to emphasise frequent hand washing and the habit of covering one's mouth when sneezing or coughing. For the next month or two, wearing masks in crowded spaces is highly recommended. Parents must prioritise their children's flu shots, especially in light of the current season."

Getting vaccinated on time, even if one doesn't have symptoms, is an important way to avoid getting sick.

Dr Sujeev Roypati
Dr Sujeev Roypati

Dr Sujeev Roypati, Specialist Paediatrics, Aster Clinic, Sheikh Zayed Road, said, "Encourage parents to seek medical attention if their child exhibits symptoms or concerns about their health. Parents must also explore the possibility of using telehealth services for follow-up consultations to reduce the number of in-person visits. Additionally, maintaining open communication with officials to coordinate monitoring and addressing potential outbreaks is important."

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