Childhood infectious diseases are on the rise. In recent years, Hand, Food, Mouth Diseases (HFMD) have affected many young children, even adults and the elderly. While chickenpox usually manifests in the initial years of our lives, there are some who do not have any symptoms until much later in life. The associated pain and scarring may intensify with age. Lastly, influenza has been a concern to World Health Organisation (WHO) due to its potential of being a worldwide pandemic – two strains and four variants exist as we speak.
While there is no cure for these infectious diseases, we as a community can take action to protect our children through concrete steps such as keeping our common areas clean and vaccination. Below are five things you can do to keep your children and our community safe.
1. Keeping Hands Clean
Some diseases are transmitted through contact such as HFMD and salmonella. HFMD and salmonella exist in the gut and are easily transmitted through fecal matter. This makes the toilet a “contaminated” place. Disinfecting toilet seats at home, washing hands after the toilet and cleaning door knobs are some simple ways that parents and the school can do to help prevent the spread of these diseases.
Children need to be taught to wash their hands after using the toilet, after coming home from outside and after getting in contact with public facilities like playgrounds. Keeping their hands clean is one important way to protect them against infectious diseases.
2. Wearing a Face Mask
Airborne diseases such as influenza can spread quickly in enclosed areas. The droplets that contain the flu bug can easily get from one room to another through central A/C. Wearing a surgical face mask will help to prevent these droplets from floating through the common area. (PS: there isn’t a need for a N95 mask for this.)
This may sound common sense but many of us do not do it even as adults. Culturally, it is still considered peculiar for many to be wearing a face mask in public places. The alternative is to keep your children in well-ventilated areas instead of cooping them up in an enclosed place.
3. Resting at Home
It is recommended for children to stay home for about seven days after HFMD and influenza even after the symptoms disappear on the third or fifth day. Some parents, due to work, may send their children back to child care or nursery on the third or fifth day. This is not recommended. In the event that you need to send your children back to school or childcare ahead of time, it is recommended that you seek the opinion of a paediatrician or a family doctor for the safety of other children.
4. Vaccinating Early
Children can get protected against chickenpox now with vaccine. A chickenpox vaccine such as Varicella consists of two doses and costs around S$250, excluding doctor’s consultation fees. Although not mandated by the Ministry of Health, protecting your children against chickenpox through vaccination can avert episodes of pain, scarring, and associated financial losses due to leave, hospitalisation and treatment.
Other than chickenpox, your children can be vaccinated against Hepatitis A, B and others as recommended by your paediatrician or family doctor.
5. Making Pre-travel Arrangements
Before setting off for a trip, it is important to get yourself a travel checklist. Other than the standard first aid kit, you can also consider getting your children and in fact the whole family vaccinated against influenza and other infectious diseases. Below is a graphical view of what you should be vaccinated against.
As immunisation of the body takes at least two weeks for influenza, it is important to schedule an appointment with your paediatrician or family doctor as early as you can. Other vaccines may take a longer time for the full immunisation to happen.
Depending on which country you are going, your doctor will be able to advise on what you need to be ready as a family. We encourage you not to take chances when it comes to your family, especially when travelling overseas.
The above content is a summary of highlights shared by Dr. Mas Suhaila Isa from Singapore Medical Group (SMG) Kids Clinic at an event held at Etonhouse Bilingual Pre-school.
Contact us below if you need additional resources to get you and your family ready for your next overseas trip.