Health matters

Five doctors bring you their advice on keeping your little ones healthy and happy

Health matters

Mums and dads, listen closely. Your lives no doubt revolve around your children. There won’t be a day that goes by without you worrying about their health and overall happiness. Health Shield Medical Center, a new Abu Dhabi hospital, shares these feelings, and its doctors are here to give you all the information you need to ensure the wellbeing of your kids, from sleep training to where to head at that first sign of illness.

A strong immune system will provide the best defence for your child and will help them avoid contracting illnesses. Health Shield Medical Center offers healthcare services for the whole family, including consultations, diagnostic tests, treatment, surgery and recovery support. Located in the Ministries Complex, the facility was established to provide the full range of adult and paediatric outpatient therapies.

As part of the Capital Health healthcare group, Health Shield offers patients access to world-class treatments and leading medical professionals including Dr Mishal Al Kasimi, who is not only a paediatric consultant, but also CEO of Health Shield and Capital Health.

Dr Al Kasimi embraced the mandate of creating, developing and running Capital Health on behalf of the Board. He is a key opinion leader in the healthcare industry and the driving force behind the transformation of rehabilitative medicine in Abu Dhabi.

Here, you’ll find advice from five doctors at Health Shield, including Dr Al Kasimi, to help you provide the best care for your children.

Dr Mishal Al Kasimi, CEO and Paediatric Consultant

As parents, it’s your top priority to ensure your child is happy and, above all, healthy. At the first sign of illness, it’s your natural instinct to worry and fear the worst from the get-go. And with the help of the internet, it’s easy to jump to conclusions.

While it’s great to utilise the World Wide Web for educational purposes, it should never, ever be used to make a diagnosis – that’s what doctors are for.

The following are the top five most common misconceptions when it comes to your child’s health. To help you distinguish the myths from the facts and put your minds at ease, we hear from Dr Mishal Al Kasimi, CEO and paediatric consultant at Health Shield Medical Center.

Myth: fever can cause brain damage
Fever is not a disease. It is a sign of something else going on and a fever alone certainly won’t destroy your child’s brain or cause brain damage. Parents often associate fever with the much-dreaded infection Meningitis. However, more often than not, fever is most likely to be caused by the common cold and viral infections. A fever is actually your child’s body’s way of protecting itself and, if your child is up to date on all on all of their immunisations, the likelihood that the fever is a cause of something dangerous is very slim.

Myth: teething can cause numerous health-related issues
Teething does not cause fever, diarrhoea, vomiting or any other kind of stomach pain.

It can cause your baby to be fussier than usual or put more things in their mouths to soothe themselves, but it won’t cause other illnesses in your child.

Myth: antibiotics are a cure-all in any situation
Antibiotics should only be given if the doctor thinks your child has a bacterial infection – they can’t be used to treat fever. When the average, well-immunised child living in the UAE gets sick, chances are, in most cases,the illness will not require antibiotics. Antibiotics do not equal antipyretic or anti-fever medicine!

Myth: hyperactive children most likely have ADHD
Just because your child is hyperactive and running around, it doesn’t mean they have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). There’s a good chance that your kid is just being a kid!

Typically, to diagnose ADHD, an appropriate assessment needs to take place in three different settings and not before your child is four years old. Why? Because we need to see how your child acts in different environments, especially at school, home and in public (like walking down the street, for example).

Myth: your child will outgrow asthma
Most practitioners in this part of the world treat asthma as a taboo term and prefer to tell you that your child has “chest allergies”. Unlike allergies, though, your child can’t outgrow asthma.

Asthma is a chronic condition and comes in episodes, but you have to make sure that your child continues to take their medicine in between these.

If you hear of any more myths disguising themselves as facts, the best thing to do is ask your paediatrician. There’s no such thing as a minor question when it comes to your child’s health.

Dr Michael Kelley, Internal Medicine and Paediatrics Consultant

We’ve all been guilty of it – you or your child gets sick and you just don’t know which doctor to go to. Cue primary care. This can be a family doctor, internal medicine doctor, or even a paediatrician.

To put things into perspective, Dr Michael Kelley, a double US board certified internal medicine and paediatrics consultant at Health Shield Medical Center gives us more insight into primary care and its importance.

What is a primary care doctor?
The bottom line is, when you go to any primary care doctor, they’re able to take care of your entire body – not just the parts that hurt. More often than not, even if you go to a sub-specialist, who will just deal with that one organ, you’ll have to go back to a primary care doctor to ensure that everything they have recommended or prescribed gets along with your other organs, too, and won’t affect any other health issues that you or your child may have.

Take yourself and your child to a primary care doctor before approaching sub-specialists. The most common issues parents tend to bring their children into our hospital for are:

There is an overwhelming number of viral or respiratory infections among children. For such, it is important to give antibiotics where appropriate, because theseinfections have the potential to affect one’s health further.

This is more common than you might think and it is one of the leading causes of mortality among children. Even mild asthma can be fatal if it is not treated properly.

Asthma is often misunderstood as a common cold or breathing problem due to a child’s physical activity. However, the signs of asthma must be heeded, and the correct medication given to the diagnosed child.

Child checks
There are two parts to this. The first is when parents are concerned about the physical development of their child, while the second is anticipatory causes to avoid such things as burns or any small danger that a child may face at any point of time.

Dermatological issues
Many children are brought to doctors with rashes, which often worry parents. Most of the time, however, these are just normal rashes and do not indicate a serious skin problem. But taking your child to the doctor is the right move.

Dr Kelley’s advice to ensure the overall wellbeing of children
As doctors, we love giving advice, even if it’s not health-related. One thing I’d like to absolutely stress to parents – which isn’t directly related to health but has to do with overall safety – is to always, always put children in a car seat. Better safe than sorry!

Dr Mayada Kheriba, general and cosmetic dentist

Children need a helping hand when it comes to oral hygiene and it’s our job to make it as fun as possible. Instilling good oral hygiene habits from an early age means less visits to the dentist for extractions, says Dr Mayada Kheriba, general and cosmetic dentist at Health Shield Medical Center. When it comes to taking care of children’s teeth, regular dentist visits are important, but they don’t have to be stressful.

Regular check-ups
From the age of two, children should visit the dentist every six months for a routine check-up. On your child’s first visit, they don’t have to receive any treatment or even have a check-up. A few minutes in the dentist’s chair can help them become familiar with the routine and ensure a less stressful, visit next time.

Watch those drinks
We all know how bad soft drinks can be for the health of your child’s teeth. One culprit that’s not so obvious when it comes to decay is acidity in drinks, which can cause dental erosion. Limit all drinks, including natural fruit juices that can be just as damaging as fizzy drinks. Using a straw can also help keep the acid away from teeth, but remember, water is the best refreshment for growing children.

Make sure they find brushing fun
Turn routine brushing into a fun time for the family. Come up with a fun song or dance routine that they can look forward to when it comes to brushing their teeth. A reward system is also a great way to make brushing fun. They’ll see it as less of a chore and more of a game, and who doesn’t love games?

Don’t forget the fluoride
As we mainly drink bottled water in the UAE, it’s almost impossible for us to have a healthy intake of fluoride, which is essential for strong teeth. While I don’t advise parents to give their children fluoride supplements, I do recommend they visit a dentist every six months to get a fluoride varnish applied. It will protect the teeth for four to six months at a time and is safer than administering fluoride supplements at home.

Break bad habits
Thumb-sucking, the use of dummies and falling asleep while feeding are all habits that are detrimental to dental health. A paediatric dentist can help you overcome these. Allowing children to sleep with milk in their mouth can cause decay, so brushing after feeding and before bed is very important. Thumb-sucking or using a dummy is soothing for many children, but can cause issues such as a high palette. This can restrict nasal passages causing breathing difficulties as the child grows older.

We know that there are plenty of techniques to get that Hollywood smile, but ultimately, preserving teeth should be the top priority. Through regular check-ups, a healthy diet and good oral hygiene, you can rest assured that you’ve done your best so your kids can enjoy strong, healthy, happy teeth and gums for life.

Dr Juan Fernandez, ENT consultant

Children are always playing and interacting with each other in the many wonderful places the city has to offer. However, playgrounds, activity centres and schools can be an exchange platform for all sorts of germs and viruses.

“No matter how many times you ask them to wash their hands or cover their mouths when they sneeze, the spread of germs is inevitable,” says Dr Juan Fernandez, ENT consultant at Health Shield Medical Center. He says that the common cold virus is a regular culprit that can cause a variety of ailments from swollen adenoids to coughs. He offers this advice to prevent illness.

Build up the immune system
While there isn’t one single factor you can address to ensure prevention, what you can do is focus on nurturing the building blocks of your child’s immune system. A strong immune system will provide the best defence for your child and will help them avoid contracting illnesses.

Pay close attention to children’s sleep
We all know how important it is for us to get a good night’s sleep. But it’s even more important to ensure that your child gets a full night’s rest. When they’re working least is when their immune system is working the hardest, recovering and repairing itself as they snooze.

Provide adequate nutrition
Proper nutrition is also vital in making sure those pesky germs don’t have an easy job. Load your child up on fresh fruit and vegetables and cut out sugars and simple carbohydrates when it comes to your kids’ diets. Good nutrition will mean better health and fewer hospital visits for all the family in the long run.

Find a good doctor for your family and stick with them
Consistency is key, so once you find a medical professional you’re comfortable with, stick with them! This helps ensure the care you receive is consistent, based on your child’s individual needs and valuable medical history. This will best position the doctor to make an informed diagnosis and prescribe the necessary treatment. It will also make visits to the doctor more comfortable for your kids – everyone likes a familiar face.

The importance of happiness
Here in the UAE, happiness is always on the agenda, and there’s a good reason for that. We’re all better people when we’re happy, and it’s no different for kids. It’s easier to tell when a child who is usually happy and content isn’t feeling well. The change in mood can be an indicator of an underlying ailment. Making sure your child happy is an important part of ensuring they are also healthy, so work on keeping those smiles on their faces!

Don’t beat yourself up if you feel your child is constantly coming down with something – it’s perfectly normal. Work on ensuring they get nutritional meals, enough sleep and lots of hugs. After all, a happy child is a healthy one.

Dr Somia Tidjani, Specialist General Paediatrician

We know how hard it is not get a good night’s sleep because your little bundle of joy is being a tiny nightmare at bedtime. Since your child is growing during sleep, rest is essential for their development. Dr Somia Tidjani, specialist general paediatrician at Health Shield Medical Center says it’s therefore important to train your child to sleep.

Make a habit out of it
When you begin sleep-training, it’s important to stick to a very specific time every night so that you can “set” your child’s biological clock and signal when it’s time to sleep. Having a routine will help. Give your baby a bath, dress them in their PJs and send them off into la-la land after making sure they’re not hungry. Develop the routine and be firm with it.

Soothe your baby into it
Use a special calming voice that you specifically use for bedtime and tell them a story or sing a lullaby. You can also give your little one a massage on their ear, eyebrow, hand or foot, using a gentle swinging motion with your fingers. If you’re worried about your baby
waking up in the middle of the night feeling abandoned, you can also place something beside them that smells like you, such as a T-shirt or blanket.

Scan for signs of discomfort
If your child is teething and has problems falling asleep because of it, use a gel or medicines to help relieve some of the pain. Also, make sure not to feed or breastfeed your baby to sleep because you don’t want them to get so used to it that they can only fall asleep by feeding. This can harm your baby in the long run, causing tooth decay and damaging their ears because of the position they’relying in.

Get rid of external factors
This goes without saying, but turn down the lights, switch off any disturbances such as the TV and, above all else, try to avoid giving your baby a dummy during the night in order to avoid any fits if they lose it while they’re asleep. Remember, a quiet night equals a quiet baby.

Tire them out
If your little one is older than a year, you should have them engage in some sort of physical activity an hour before bedtime. This way, by the time their tiny heads hit that pillow, it’s lights out for baby.

If your baby wakes up crying, you have to remain steadfast to the cause. When they wake up, make sure everything is fine – dry nappy, no fever – but don’t pick them up. They’re only crying because they miss you, not because they’rein any kind of pain.

If you do give in and carry them, make sure you stay in the same room and environment and don’t take them to your bed. Remember, it’s not abandoning them if you leave them in theirroom and train them to sleep alone.

A well-rested baby is a happy, healthy, growing baby, which makes for a restful mum, too.

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