Health alert: Parents must protect children from air, water-borne diseases

ISLAMABAD: Child specialist Dr Huma Baki on Thursday advised parents to protect their children from water-borne and airborne diseases during the onset of monsoon season due to unhygienic conditions, and not adhering to basic preventive measures.

“Rain increases humidity levels and at the same time triggers change in temperatures which favors growth of virus and bacteria. Usually, people with weak immune system fall prey to microbes present in the air during monsoon,” said Dr Baki.

With the monsoon, we see a jump in the number of cases of food and water-borne infections. Amongst all, diarrhea is the most common. While infants are always prone to gastrointestinal diseases, their vulnerability towards the infections grows during the months of June to August, she added.

Common infections among babies during monsoon are caused by low immunity, mosquitoes and fungal diseases. Low immunity levels make the babies (0-12 months) greatly vulnerable to all kinds of diseases and skin infections. Stomach flu or gastroenteritis is the one of the common infections seen in babies, she explained.

“When feeding children, parents tend to give them regular water at restaurants, for instance, ignorant of the fact that it may be infected. Sometimes, even if the establishment vouches for the water, it may get infected just during the journey from the kitchen to the table. Since children who are young do not have a strong immune system, it is important to give them boiled water or RO-purified water. Also, food should be fresh and strictly home-cooked and hygienic to avoid infection,” added the doctor.

Gastrointestinal disorders in children are often indicated by symptoms such as stomach aches, fever, loose stool, body ache, and vomiting. Children who exclusively have breast milk are at a lower risk of catching such infections, compared to children fed on formula food, Dr Baki highlighted.

Moreover she suggested that parents must wash their hands for 30 seconds before attending to their infants, they must ensure that fruits and vegetables are washed properly before feeding.

Children should be strictly given purified or boiled water. Since contaminated food and water are the only source of these diseases, improved eating habits and maintaining hygiene can prevent them.

Apart from eating healthy and staying fit, Dr Baki urged parents to ensure that their child’s surroundings are clean.  Good hygiene is vital to maintain good health. She added, “It is very important that there is no filth lying around. Care should be taken to ensure that no water is accumulated around the house, in empty pots, air-coolers and tyres. There should be proper air circulation and sunlight in homes to eliminate any dampness which may lead to microbes.”

“Children should be given boiled water and it should be ensured that they do not eat anything from roadside or even hotels. Their clothes must be washed in antiseptic liquid to kill the disease spreading germs. Also, mothers who are breast-feeding should take care of their diet,” she said.

She says it is therefore important for people to maintain good hygiene, and seek medical help in case of any unusual symptoms.  

Published in The Express Tribune, July 13th, 2018.

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