UAE: Sudden temperature changes pose risks to kids’ health, warn doctors

Medics report an increase in children visiting doctors with complaints of tiredness, fever, sore throat

by

Nandini Sircar

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Photo: File
Photo: File

Published: Mon 20 May 2024, 6:00 AM

Last updated: Mon 20 May 2024, 10:29 PM

Doctors in the UAE have noted a surge in children seeking medical attention for symptoms such as fatigue, sore throat, and fever which they attribute to heightened immune stress and allergen circulation triggered by a rise in temperature.

Switching from temperatures hovering at 40°C outside to an icy indoor environment is notably impacting health, particularly among children.


Medical professionals caution that sudden shifts from cold to warm environment can put stress, particularly on a child’s body, which can lead to lowered immunity and chances of infection.

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Dr Fahad Farouk, specialist paediatrics, LLH Hospital, Musaffah, said: “There is an increase in children visiting us with complaints of tiredness during this hot weather. This is mostly due to exposure to heat and inadequate hydration. There can also be an increase in the incidence of sore throats due to exposure to dry, dusty environment.”

Dr Fahad Farouk.
Dr Fahad Farouk.

Summer flu or ‘enteroviruses’

Healthcare professionals pointed out that upper respiratory cases also increase in summer due to ‘enteroviruses’, known as summer flu, causing throat pain, fever, myalgia (muscle aches), conjunctivitis, and abdominal pain.

Dr Zaid Mahdi Mohammed, HOD, ambulatory care and emergency medicine at Canadian Specialist Hospital Dubai, said: “There has been a noticeable increase in young patients with symptoms like tiredness, fever, sore throat, and cough during periods of significant temperature swings, especially when there is a marked difference between outdoor heat and air-conditioned indoor environments.”

Dr Zaid Mahdi Mohammed.
Dr Zaid Mahdi Mohammed.

He added: “Moving frequently between hot outdoor temperatures and cold indoor environments can put stress on the respiratory system. The sudden change can cause the mucous membranes in the respiratory tract to dry out, reducing their ability to trap and expel pathogens.”

Mohammed also explained viruses thrive in cool, dry environments, which are often created by air conditioners. “This can increase the likelihood of contracting viral infections like the common cold or flu.”

Do not grab a bottle of chilled water

Dr Prashant Kadam, specialist paediatrician at Zulekha Hospital, Sharjah, said: “These viruses are shed in respiratory secretions and fecal route. They are highly contagious and spread by person-to-person transmission or by fecal contamination of food. Viruses exhibit thermal stability and thrive well in cold items, so in summer, grabbing a bottle of chilled water, ice creams, and unwashed fruits increases chances of infection.”

Dr Prashant Kadam.
Dr Prashant Kadam.

Drinking plain water to clear the mouth and throat after eating cold items, and eating fruits only after washing them can help avoid infection, he advised.

Don’t delay drinking water

To tackle heat exhaustion cases that typically crop up during summer months, doctors said staying hydrated is important, especially when playing outdoors.

Dr Mahesh Katre, consultant paediatrician, Al Zahra Hospital, Dubai, said: “Kids are more indoors, especially at schools, which increases the susceptibility to infection. Encourage your child to drink plenty of water. Do not wait until you get thirsty. If you are thirsty, it means your hydration level is already low.”

Dr Mahesh Katre.
Dr Mahesh Katre.

Additionally, he explained when children venture outdoors during the scorching summer months, they're at a heightened risk of experiencing heat exhaustion, primarily due to dehydration and imbalances in electrolytes.

“When children are indoors in air-conditioned rooms, parents should make sure that they drink at least 250ml of water. This should be taken every two to three hours. Parents should also check their kids’ urine colour. If it’s concentrated, the water intake must be adjusted accordingly,” added Dr Kadam.

Recognise heat exhaustion symptoms

To prevent heat exhaustion among children, parents must not only ensure proper hydration but also see that their children are wearing appropriate clothing, limiting outdoor activities during peak heat, and using sunscreen.

Doctors reiterated adults must be educated on recognising heat exhaustion symptoms in their wards.

Dr Manaf Shaker AlKassab.
Dr Manaf Shaker AlKassab.

Dr Manaf Shaker AlKassab, assistant professor/ senior consultant paediatrician at Dr Sulaiman AlHabib Hospital/DHCC, said: “Indicators of heat exhaustion include heavy sweating, dizziness, nausea, headache and muscle cramps. For kids performing sports, parents must ensure proper hydration, rest breaks, and gradual acclimatization (gradually increase the intensity and duration of physical activity over several days to help children acclimate to the heat).

“Indoor temperatures should be moderate. Additionally, promote a balanced diet and adequate sleep to boost the immune system,” he added.

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