Making children stay healthy in cold season
Though the rain comes with its showers of blessings, there is need to prevent the little problems that might come in the form of certain illnesses and infections. The rainy season increases chances of cold and other ailments in children.
Prof. Ebunoluwa Aderonke Adejuyigbe, a Professor of Paediatrics, former Dean of the Faculty of Clinical Sciences of the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, and currently a Southwestern Coordinator of the Nigerian Society of Neonatal Medicine (NISONM), said cold and catarrh, which are due to viral infections, are very common during raining seasons. They make the throat and nose susceptible or vulnerable to bacterial infections, thereby causing complications such as sore throat, ear infections and pneumonia.
“Cold is transmitted via airborne droplets, direct contact with infected nasal secretions or contaminated objects. Influenza, also known as flu, is also very common. It affects the respiratory tract of children and those with weak immune system, causing fever, chills, sore throat, fatigue, cough and running nose. Pneumonia is the number one killer of children and can result from complicated common cold or influenza. The brain and the heart can also be infected by this virus,” she said.
Adejuyigbe stated that malaria is a common illness in children during this season. Malaria causes fever, chills and rigours, loss of appetite and body aches.
“Diarrhoea illnesses and typhoid fever are common water and food-borne diseases. And though there is plenty of water during this season, but ironically, most of the available water is contaminated with leaking sewage from bad soak away pits. Passage of loose stool frequently leads to loss of body water, which is the main cause of death resulting from diarrhoea. Houseflies become abundant, especially from the prevalent practice of dumping refuse in gutters during the rains and they help spread infections causing diarrhoea.
“Fungal infections tend to occur more during this season because fungus thrives in moist, humid conditions. Damp stockings and shoes and walking in floodwater promote fungus growth. Skin infections by fungus and athlete’s foot are common in children.
“During rainy season, there is an exacerbation of some chronic ailments such as asthma. Asthmatics are prone to more frequent attacks because of the increase in provoking factors such as pollens. Children living with sickle cell disease are also more prone to bone pain crisis during this season.”
Adejuyigbe said accidents tend to occur more frequently during flooding, especially when children go on errands and get caught up in heavy rains.
She said: “To prevent malaria, emphasis should be on sleeping under insecticide treated nets, staying indoors in the evenings, wearing of long-sleeve clothes when outdoor and clearing stagnant water from the homes. Seek care with the first symptoms of malaria.
“For common cold and Influenza, it is important to frequently wash hands and ensure that any household member with cold covers his/her face while coughing or sneezing. Children should be kept warm and served copious warm fluids and given lots of fruits and vegetables daily. If the child develops fever, vomiting or becomes unwell, the parents should seek care in a health facility.
“To prevent diarrhoeal illnesses, hand washing is very important, particularly after using the toilet and before preparing children’s food. Drinking water must be potable and safe. Foods should be covered and leftover foods should be discarded or reheated adequately. Fresh fruits and vegetables, which are abundant during this period, should be well washed. The nails of children and their caregiver should be cut regularly to deny germs a home, when those hands are put in the mouth. For children less than six months, rotavirus vaccine can be purchased and administered. For fungal infections, children’s clothes should be properly sundried before being worn. When children come home wet and beaten by rain, they should be bathed and changed into well-dried clothes. The wet clothes should not dry on their body. Foot wears should also be removed and dried, while the child wears a pair of slippers.”
She stated that germs multiply at a faster rate during rainy season, increasing the risk of infections.
“But God in His wisdom has also ensured that there are abundant fruits and vegetables at this time. These provide micronutrients that boost immunity and the body defences to ward off and fight these germs.
“Rainfall breaks pollen into smaller particles that spread faster and are more easily absorbed at higher concentrations, causing more severe allergy symptoms. Also, molds and dust mites that incite allergic symptoms thrive during rainy season, increasing the risk and frequency of allergies. Although controller medications does not prevent occurrence of acute exacerbation, it reduces the severity and frequency of acute exacerbations and helps to achieve better quality life. Asthma exacerbation in children is more common among the younger age group, possibly because rhinovirus infection, which is most prevalent in children under the age of five years, plays a significant role in asthma exacerbations.
“Keep warm with clothing and regular intake of fluids. Parents should ensure this, as children do not often feel thirsty during rainy season and end up with inadequate water intake, which provokes attacks. People should shut their windows and doors and use air conditioners instead of opening the doors. Air conditioners that are especially built with extra filter to prevent allergy is preferred. Do not leave washed clothes outside for too long after drying, as they will accumulate pollens. People should also avoid pets or homes with pets that cuddle on the living room furniture.”
Prof. Sunday Aremu Omilabu, a Virologist at College of Medicine Idi-Araba, Lagos said the cold weather affect children more because their immunity is not mature like that of adults and so, they succumb more easily to respiratory tract diseases.
“During this cold season, we are likely to have more of respiratory tract infections, which if care is not taken, will result in severe diseases and children are more at risk than adults. Therefore, patents should ensure their children are not exposed to cold weather. Also, children should be fed hot food, and balanced diet. Aside food, they should also be given fruits that contain vitamin E, which will help boost their immunity.
“Adults also come down with respiratory tract diseases at this season, but not as serious as children. So, I would advise that once people come down with any sickness, they should not waste time to see their doctor, who will identify which organism is causing the health condition and prescribe appropriate drugs for treatment.
But if children are prevented from exposing themselves to cold weather, this will go a long way in protecting them. Even inside the house, children should be made to wear warm clothing.”
Omilabu advised that people should clean their environments, cut surrounding bushes to avoid mosquitoes, as well as ensure that the environment is free from rodents, as they carry different infections.