UAE doctors add 2 things to back-to-school list: Vaccine and eye check; here's why

Experts explain health matters that parents should keep in mind as they prepare for children's new school year


Angel Tesorero

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Published: Sun 20 Aug 2023, 6:00 AM

Last updated: Sun 20 Aug 2023, 10:22 PM

It’s back to school in a week’s time and parents are ticking off their lists of things to be done — from buying bags to securing books, school uniforms and lunch boxes — before August 28 arrives.

It’s a bit overwhelming at times but doctors in the UAE also advice to add two more boxes to the check list — get flu vaccine and have eye check-ups for kids so that they are fully prepared and come healthy going into their first or next year at school.

Importance of flu vaccine

Dr Viswasri Vijayaraj, specialist paediatrics at Aster Clinic-Al Khail, told Khaleej Times, “Flu vaccine is the best way to prevent flu and its complications, like pneumonia. Flu viruses are constantly changing. Hence, yearly flu shots are necessary for adequate protection. All children, six months and older must get an annual flu shot to be protected throughout the season.”

Dr Pankaj Nandlal Tardeja, head of department and specialist - general paediatrics at NMC Specialty Hospital, Al Ain, noted how common cold and flu are the common illnesses children can get from school.

"Children in close contact with each other can easily spread these viruses. Children are often exposed to various viruses in a school environment, leading to colds and flu. Symptoms include coughing, sneezing, runny nose, fever, and body aches,” he explained.

“That is why, aside from getting a flu jab, children should also learn proper hand-washing and respiratory hygiene to reduce the spread of germs. Ensure your child's vaccinations are up-to-date. This can help prevent many serious illnesses and many preventable diseases,” he added.

Dr Tardeja continued to give more advice. “Schedule a regular health check-up for your child; have balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables to boost your child's immune system; ensure thy get enough sleep, and encourage your child to drink plenty of water to stay hydrated, especially in the hot UAE climate.”

Ensure eye care

Dr Julia Sempere Matarredona, consultant ophthalmologist at Barraquer Eye Hospital Dubai, meanwhile, is advocating annual eye check-ups for school-age children even if they are asymptomatic.

She said, “It is very important to be aware of our kid’s eyes. Headache, difficulty in learning and vision impairment are things that we need to take care of at the beginning of every school year. These treatable conditions can impact a child’s life and their education.”

“That is why it is necessary to do an annual eye check-up even if they are asymptomatic. An ophthalmologist can make sure that the child’s vision is not compromised. It is not only important to rule out refractive defects such as myopia, hypermetropia and astigmatism, there are other ocular conditions such as allergy and dry eye that needs to be discarded in children because most of the time, kids do not complain at all,” she added.

"Just as annual dental check-ups are recommended, an annual review of the eye condition is recommended,” she further underlined.

Dr Matarredona noted there are signs that should alert us to an eye problem which the child might be experiencing. These include:

  • Blinking and/or excessive tearing and frequent rubbing of the eyes.
  • Covering or winking one eye occasionally to see better with the other.
  • Getting very close when reading or using the computer.
  • Not seeing clearly what is written and/or what is projected on the board.
  • Seeing double or blurry occasionally.
  • Have frontal headaches or dizziness in the afternoon or after performing a close task.
  • Stumbles easily, does not calculate distances well — this is a consequence of the deficiency in the sensation of depth.


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