You want them have fun in the rain just like you did when you were a kid, but, at the same time, say experts, it is important to protect your children from waterborne and airborne diseases that peak this season. That’s not all. Doctors believe parents must be prepared for cases of leptospirosis and conjunctivitis, too. The good news is that a few lifestyle changes and instructions can keep these conditions at bay.
Conjunctivitis spreads through contact, says Dr Monica Goel, a consultant physician at PD Hinduja Hospital. “Say, when an infected child touches a table or opens a door, and then another child touches the same surface.” Therefore, prevention, she says, begins with teaching children to keep a safe distance from anyone whose eyes are red. “If a student appears to be infected, your child should know that he or she must not touch any of this child’s belongings. And, children must be asked to wash their hands with soap and water scrupulously.”
Frequent hand washing works, to some extent, to stave off waterborne illnesses, including those, like typhoid, that are transmitted by the fecal-oral route, says Dr Fazal Nabi, a paediatrician at Jaslok Hospital. “Children must be taught to wash their hands before eating food, and also to keep from touching surfaces like the railings of staircases and walls at school,” says Dr Nabi. He also recommends boiling drinking water — “it must be boiled for ten minutes, then allowed to cool down to room temperature”— to prevent diarrhoea and typhoid. Dr Bijal Shrivastava, a paediatrician at L H Hiranandani Hospital, recommends getting younger children to brush their teeth with drinking water. “Tap water also contains fecal bacteria and, while brushing, bathing, or swimming, children sometimes gulp a large amount of water down and could thus pick up these diseases.” Other precautions include always eating hot, fully-cooked meals, never eating pre-peeled fruit outside the home, and avoiding adding ice to juices and soft drinks at restaurants.
This bacterial infection can be contracted when one comes in contact with water that has been contaminated with rat urine. Dr Srivastava explains that while children must be advised to avoid splashing around in puddles, “if your child has walked through flooded streets, or if there is an outbreak of leptospirosis, do consult a doctor — he or she may prescribe preventive drugs.”
Cold and flu/viral fever
A common cold or cough, says Dr Shrivastava, “can progress to hyperreactive airway disease.” Besides, she says, “we also see many cases of lung infections caused by viruses and parainfluenza viruses during this season. Swine flu, a respiratory disorder caused by an influenza virus, is particularly common.” Dr Shrivastava says that children should ideally be vaccinated against influenza prior to the monsoon. Other safeguards include a diet rich in Vitamin A (red and yellow veggies and fruits), Vitamin C (all citrus fruits), and Vitamin D (your doctor can prescribe oral supplements, as required).
Explaining that mosquitoes are attracted to human odour, Dr Shrivastava says that insect repellents work by blocking this odour. She recommends using these (as patches, creams or sprays) to keep mosquitoes away, and also recommends dressing children in garments that shield the skin. “Children usually get back from school by 4pm, so spray your home with a repellent at, say, 2pm; then, open your windows to air out the space and to allow the mosquitoes to exit. You may shut your windows again by, say, 4.30pm, to avoid the peak hours when mosquitoes may fly in, and re-open them after 8pm.” Dr Shrivastava also stresses on the need to keep indoor plants clean and to ensure that the trays underneath flowering pots are dry. Stagnant water is, after all, a breeding ground for mosquitoes that transmit diseases like dengue.