UAE: Stomach cramps in children on the rise; here's why

Eating out, poor hand hygiene and erratic weather may be among causes, say medics


Nandini Sircar

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Published: Wed 24 Apr 2024, 8:04 PM

Last updated: Thu 23 May 2024, 11:54 AM

Doctors are reporting a surge in cases of children presenting themselves with stomach cramps as the weather remains erratic during the transition period between spring and summer.

Medics highlighted that several young patients have reported symptoms such as vomiting, abdominal discomfort, or mild cramps, while others experienced vomiting accompanied by diarrhoea and severe abdominal pain.

Healthcare professionals pointed out that as most children are returning to on-site learning this week, they may be experiencing dietary changes, possibly poor hydration, and are exposed to other environmental factors which are triggering these health-related issues.

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Viral infection and travel history

Dr Lama Lubbadeh, Consultant Pediatrician, Burjeel Day Surgery Center, Al Reem Island, said, “Most of these cases appear to be due to viral infections. Pathological examination of some cases indicated infections from adenovirus and retrovirus. Though in some instances, it was challenging to determine the exact cause of the symptoms. Fortunately, the patients have responded well to symptomatic treatments, although the symptoms may persist for three to five days.”

Dr Lama Lubbadeh. Photo: Supplied
Dr Lama Lubbadeh. Photo: Supplied

“Some patients have reported recent travel history,” added Dr Lubbadeh.

Doctors stressed that especially infants and the elderly remain vulnerable to dehydration due to gastroenteritis.

Dr Kiran Kumar. Photo: Supplied
Dr Kiran Kumar. Photo: Supplied

“Even hospital admissions due to gastroenteritis have shown an up-tick. Most have had symptoms that started after having food and water outside. Although such conditions used to occur even prior to the rains, however, there is a slight up-tick in the cases in the last one week post rainfall,” said Dr Kiran Kumar, Specialist and Head, Department of Internal Medicine, Thumbay University Hospital.

No outside food

Healthcare professionals advise pupils to refrain from eating out as food and water contamination may lead to infections and compound problems.

Dr Mohammed Ali Alsabbah. Photo: Supplied
Dr Mohammed Ali Alsabbah. Photo: Supplied

Dr Mohammed Ali Alsabbah, Consultant Pediatrician, Al Zahra Hospital said, “I have noticed causes attributed to the changing weather. Mostly I advise to restrict students from eating out, especially from cafeterias, in addition to maintaining proper hand hygiene especially at meals since this is the best method to avoid the transmission of an infection. Currently due to the change in the weather, there are riding numbers of upper respiratory tract infection, (common cold) which may exacerbate a chest infection as well.”

Avoid eating undercooked meals

Doctors also advise families against giving their children processed food as it often contain high levels of added sugars, unhealthy fats, and salt, which can contribute to various health problems.

Dr Maya Mouzannar. Photo: Supplied
Dr Maya Mouzannar. Photo: Supplied

Dr Maya Mouzannar, Consultant Pediatrician at Dr Sulaiman Al Habib Medical Center said, “All year long we advise students to wash their hands after using the toilets and before eating, not to drink from tap water, to avoid eating undercooked meals, especially those containing eggs and chicken or beef. Parents are also advised to avoid giving children processed food from fast food restaurants and to make sure to pack healthy snacks for their kids.”

Dr Nahla Sobhi. Photo: Supplied
Dr Nahla Sobhi. Photo: Supplied

Dr Nahla Sobhi, Consultant Pediatrician, Prime Medical Centre, Mizhar emphasized nothing beats early medical care to prevent complications. “Take medical advice as fast as possible if any symptoms start to arrest the problems early.”


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