Flu cases are rising in UAE: Doctors urge parents not to send infected kids to school

Get flu shots for your children as vaccination is the only effective way to control the situation


Nandini Sircar

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It is advisable for families to stay away from crowded places, especially when there are children or adults suffering from flu at home. — File photo
It is advisable for families to stay away from crowded places, especially when there are children or adults suffering from flu at home. — File photo

Published: Wed 16 Nov 2022, 6:00 AM

Last updated: Wed 16 Nov 2022, 2:15 PM

Healthcare facilities in the UAE are witnessing a surge in paediatric patient footfall as flu cases are increasing with the onset of winter months. Doctors advise parents not to send their unwell wards to school as flu is highly contagious.

They also urge parents to get their kids administered with the influenza shot as people are looking forward to travelling with school-age children during the upcoming holidays. Flu vaccine could be a precautionary measure to avoid severity, frequency and complications later, according to the doctors.

Dr Meenakshi Sesama, specialist paediatrician, Aster Clinic, Barsha said: “With the onset of the winter season, hospitals and clinics are seeing a huge influx of children with fever, cough, cold, body ache, loose motion, vomiting, and breathing complaints. Flu and RSV infections are on the rise. Also, the Covid-19 restrictions have been relaxed to a great extent. Travelers who want to reduce the risk of influenza should consider vaccination, preferably at least two weeks before departure.”

She said most influenza cases in healthy children are self-limiting. “In severe cases, anti-viral treatment is recommended. Mostly, in suspected influenza cases, it is just the symptomatic treatment, and supportive management after consulting the paediatrician. But in severe cases or where there are other risks — if your child is influenza A positive — they should be treated with antiviral medications at the earliest,” Sesama added.

How to differentiate between symptoms of flu and other viral infection?

Medics explain symptoms of flu and other viral infections are more or less the same initially.

However, the differentiating factor is that in the case of flu, children experience high-grade fever, breathing difficulties, chills, and generalised feelings of not being well, compared to a common cold.

Dr Sahar Mohamed Elghawaby, specialist paediatrician, Prime Medical Center Motor city branch Dubai, said: “We are seeing lots of children suffering from influenza in the last couple of weeks. It is a bit hard for parents to differentiate between influenza and other viral infections. Common symptoms of influenza are high fever, cough and flu along with vomiting and very poor intake, sometimes. Luckily, all clinics now have kit for rapid test to detect influenza, which is helpful.”

Elghawaby added: “Parents can see the doctor immediately when their child’s general condition is getting bad and if they can’t handle the symptoms. “

Visit the doctor within the first 48 hours

Doctors recommend that parents should quickly seek professional help, instead of waiting for too long.

According to Dr Elghawaby, it is optimum to visit the paediatrician within the first 48 hours. The family should be aware of all medications that can be used for the child to control fever, including the dosage, frequency and contraindications. All instructions should be precise and clear.”

Parents are advised not to panic as most flu cases are mild to moderate and are treatable.

Dr Saad Aziz, medical director and paediatrician at Medeor Hospital, Abu Dhabi, said: “Illnesses like flu spread quickly among children as they are more likely to touch their eyes, mouth and nose without washing their hands. Children need to keep themselves hydrated and consume nutritious food. Moreover, they must follow good hand hygiene. As respiratory illnesses spread quickly among children when they are in close contact, keep them at home till they recover.”

Doctors point out vaccination is highly recommended as it is the only effective way to control the situation.

“Seek medical help when your child is sick. Influenza is a viral infection and the only way to diagnose it is to visit the doctor and do a nasal swab. Vaccination can help in bringing down the frequency and severity of flu symptoms,” added Aziz.

Tamiflu is used to treat symptoms caused by the flu virus, and helps make the symptoms such as stuffy nose, cough, sore throat, fever, chills, aches, tiredness, less severe. It also shortens the recovery time by one or two days. However, Elghawaby underlined that the medicine is approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to use for children under supervision of a doctor.

Healthcare professionals also stressed that a child can get the flu vaccine even after influenza infection, as the vaccine covers more than one virus.

Sesama said: “If the flu vaccine is not taken before getting infected, it can be taken anytime throughout the flu season as long as the influenza viruses are circulating, and an unexpired vaccine is available.”

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