Dr. Gordon Bland
Specialist Family Medicine
Mediclinic Dubai Mall

Preventing Common Childhood Illnesses

The ‘Back to School’ season is often marked by an increase in common childhood infections. Here are some simple tips to help reduce the risk of getting sick during this period.

Holidays are often a time of relaxed schedules with less strict rules about sleep patterns and diet. This is fun for the holiday but can put extra stress on the body if sudden changes are made before heading back to school. Getting your children back into a routine of healthy sleep and healthy eating prior to starting school again can help to avoid this stress. A good diet of fresh fruits and vegetables is important to provide the vitamins and nutrients essential for good health. Healthy meal options at school keep our immune systems at their best.

We should encourage our children to wash their hands frequently throughout the day, particularly before eating. This is a very important step to reduce the chance of picking up illness from the environment or classmates. Ordinary soap and water is excellent for this purpose. Hand sanitisers can be used as an alternative when water is not easily available.

We should teach our children to cover their mouths when coughing or sneezing. This is an important step to reduce the transmission of illness between children. It is also important to try to keep your child at home if they are unwell with high fevers or have a wet cough. Sending sick children like this to school can cause illness to be more prolonged, due to lack of good rest, and can also spread the illness to other classmates.

Heading back to school is also a good time to review vaccinations. The booster vaccines are important for long term immunity against a range of illnesses. Booster vaccines are commonly given at 4-6 years of age, 9-10 years of age, and 14-15 years of age. You should talk to your doctor if you are unsure about whether you, and your children, are up to date with vaccinations. The flu vaccine will become available in late September/early October to help provide protection for the winter flu season. This vaccine does not prevent common colds but can provide protection against the more severe influenza virus.

Many parents ask about the use of vitamin supplements for children to help prevent illness. Vitamin supplements should not be considered an alternative to a good healthy diet. It is best to obtain the vitamins through natural food sources wherever possible. Supplements can be useful for children who are fussy eaters or who have other medical conditions that make vitamin absorption difficult. You can talk with your doctor about what supplements, if any, will be suitable for your children.