COVID-19 social distancing led to weakened children’s immune systems: UAE doctor

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Social distancing measures to combat COVID-19 have weakened the immune systems of young children who have not been able to build up resistance to common bugs, leaving them vulnerable to infections during the winter season, according to a doctor in the United Arab Emirates.

Dr. Ranya Khairy Ammar, a specialist in general pediatrics at NMC Royal Medical Center in Shahama, has told Al Arabiya English that an increased number of children have been getting sick during the cold spell, with a higher number than usual of young patients seeking treatment for influenza and other respiratory viruses.

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“In the past months, we have seen higher number of children getting sick perhaps due to the flu season,” she said. “At the same time, children remain at risk of COVID-19 infection, so it is very important for parents to boost their immune system and stay healthy.”

“Moreover, children have been staying indoors more and this may have contributed in lowering their natural immunity.”

She said the winter season normally begins with an increased number of children suffering with a cold and cough.

“Fever is not mandatory to diagnose common cold but general malaise, muscle pain, rhinorrhea, blocked nose, sneezing, coughing with decreased activity and appetite,” are the common symptoms being reported in recent weeks, according to Ammar. “Some kids develop fever which alarm and annoys parents more than other symptoms. Common cold still with presentation includes influenza and other respiratory viruses.”

The doctor also said younger children and infants suffer more than older kids, leading to the development of a wheeze and respiratory distress with a prolonged cough.

The higher number of children getting sick this season coincides with lingering concerns of COVID-19 in the UAE, where numbers have soared over the past months.

“COVID-19 is a communicable disease that is still present, and kids are under risk of exposure and infection,” warned Ammar. “Symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, fever, cough and even skin issues manifest in children.”

“It is encouraged that children join socials gradually and follow health and safety precautions to defend the young generation from subsequent exposure to diseases and build their immune system. Following strictly the health and safety measures will also avoid COVID-19 infections in children.”

Parents should seek help for their children if they are displaying any flu-like symptoms, the doctor said, and ensure that they follow simple safety precautions to limit the spread of any respiratory disease.

“Parents can advise and teach kids about healthy habits and hygiene as using special personal items in schools and public areas, hand washing and avoiding crowded places and providing them with healthy balanced diet rich in vitamins.”

“A community role of early detecting sick children in schools and nurseries and providing early medical consultation and care play great role to limit spread of diseases.”

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She added: “COVID-19 with its genetic mutation and rapid spread is a communicable disease. Fortunately, it’s causing less morbidity and mortality.”

“Teach a child how to keep social distance of two-meters, avoid touching surfaces, proper hand washing, and use hand sanitizer frequently.”

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