Monday, March 16, 2009


Many working couples with infants, having barely enough time, especially on week days, to prepare for leaving home for the work place, face enormous odds in coping up with such daily pressures and tensions. While some have retired parents to take care of the children when they are away from home on official work, many others depend on creches and day care centers to park their kids for 6--10 hours a day. Compared to children of yester years, to day's kids are more prone to frequent ailments like cold, flu, diarrhea, cough etc probably because of lesser resistance to infections polluted environment that are prevalent in many urban areas of the country. Though they go through the prescribed regime of modern vaccination without any default, there are too many vectors of infection that are not immunizable which can cause temporary discomfort to the children.

Common cold, winter crud, lingering nasal drips, irritating cough are all too common amongst pre-school children which do not need hospitalization. There may be vomiting and fever which can be serious requiring medical attention with least delay. Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) is a relatively harmless vector as far as adults and School Children are concerned but it can cause serious damage to infants, if not promptly attended to. It is not realized that children can carry a viral infection without showing typical symptoms for some time and even after apparent curing they can still be a source of infection. On the other hand, RSV infected children may cough for weeks without necessarily having the virus particles still in their body because the virus had affected the linings of their lungs during its active phase and it takes time to heal the inflammation which is responsible for the drip.

Immunization against Flu, the most common affliction amongst children and old age people, is possible but plain cold has to be endured for as long as 21 days in some cases. Use of many 'Cold Remedies', often available as "Over the Counter" medicines needing no prescription by a physician is positively ruled out for babies under the age of two years because of unpredictable consequence. Viral particles generally gain entry into the blood through the receptive epithelium of the nose and the eyes. There is the usual tendency for the children to rub the areas near the nose and the eyes due to irritation and contact with such children can spread the infection to others. In a recent classical study of hospital environment which can be a place for spreading infection, it was reported that those who stood near an infected baby and those who touched the baby as well as the crib were highly vulnerable to catching the infection while those keeping some distance from the crib were not affected at all. It is against this back ground that hospitals insist on a rigorous practice of thorough washing of hands every time some one goes near an infected baby. Creches and pre-school institutions also should have such facilities so that between handling two children the concerned personnel practice thorough hand washing. Encouraging children to wash their hands as frequently as possible will also cut down the probability of spreading infection to a great extent.

Biggest worry for parents is when they should be keeping their children home during times of infection. If an actively infected baby is sent to such public places there is high probability of passing on the infection to other babies with the least resistant one being affected first. While common cold, nasal drips and cough can be ignored for sending the child to creche, it will be irresponsible if children with fever or vomiting are encouraged to attend such day care centers. They must stay home even if there is inconvenience for the parents. Diarrhea, by itself, is a different proposition and as long as food is not handled with soiled hands there may not be any hazard to others, though keeping such children at home, if possible, will be a better proposition for their comfort.

The oft repeated slogan" wash your hands before eating" needs to be changed to "wash your hands as often as possible". Such training must start at home where young kids are encouraged to go to the wash basin for washing their hands regularly after every activity. Washing with soap or disinfectant can be insisted on before eating the food and after visiting the toilet every time. A child trained like this will be least affected by fellow children attending the day care center even when the latter carry viral infection. In any creche or day care center where all the kids are trained for hand washing regimen, serious infections will be far and few.


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