Seasons of Sickness: Healthy Living Tells What to Watch For
Doctors are accustomed to seeing cases of certain illnesses rise at specific times of the year. This time of year – although the weather is quite “UN-Marchlike” – pediatricians tend to see increases in asthma attacks and a few other illnesses. Tonight in Healthy Living, we find out what the common threats are for children in Belize at this time of year and what parents can do by way of prevention.
Marleni Cuellar, Reporting
As Belizeans we are accustomed to two seasons: the dry and the wet. Tourism officials also have two seasons: the high and the slow. Well, the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital, they also have seasons…seasonal spikes of various illnesses. Doctor Cecilio Eck is the head of the pediatric department at the K.H.M.H. and speaks about the top two causes of admission for children at this time.
Dr. Cecilio Eck, Head, Pediatric Dept., K.H.M.H.
“At this time, I know the two spikes were having is in asthma-related admissions and the gastroenteritis. Both are seasonal and if we would map you would see that around this time of year, April and March is when they are both around the same level.”
Asthma-related admissions typically spike when the cooler weather comes in at the end of the year. Eck says the same happens in these months mostly because of the winds.
“When the cold front leaves and we get this wave of air coming in an easterly direction. It hits the Caribbean and what the pundits say is because it comes off the coast of Africa with some Saharan sub-particles in it and that is what triggers the secondary wave of asthma in our region. With the gastroenteritis, it usually comes with the rainy season because the viruses that cause that one likes wet weather but this little spike right now is in the heart of the dry season.”
Gastroenteritis, or the stomach flu as we know it, includes stomach aches, diarrhea, and vomiting. It is a very common ailment and that can be passed on easily. Last month the Ministry of Health issued an advisory for the Stann Creek area warning residents to take precautionary measures as they had recorded a spike in stomach flu.
“Very, very, very contagious. I tell parents: you go to the bathroom and it happens ta the adult level but mostly at the school aged level. The kids would go to the bathroom have a little bit of diarrhea, they wash their hands but they don’t wash it so well then they come out and share the love. They hug each other, they share food. It can kill. It is one of the leading causes of death in kids less than two worldwide. In that grout the viral causes of gastroenteritis top the list so I warn parents that it does kill. The last death that we had reported was in a young four-month-old child in rural south Belize. So it does happen. I tell parents to advise your kids; if you hear the advisories from the ministry of health, you follow them; you instruct them to wash their hands, follow them to the bathroom and teach them how to do it properly. When they go to school give them advice on how not to share food only eat the food they have and try not to share or to accept food from anyone else. Lastly, if the kid should start with diarrhea or vomiting…how to appropriately manage it. And it’s simple, small amounts of fluid at this time. I open my draw and I show parents get a cup, a medicine cup, you fill the cup to ten to fifteen ml about half an ounce and you give that every ten minutes and what you put in there is Pedialite, fresh Coconut water or oral hydration fluid. If the child is breastfeeding, he can breastfeed as well but he cannot stay till he’s full. It is important what you give but more important how you give it. The dangers sign would be no saliva, no pee, a very lethargic kid that is sleepy, that doesn’t want to play and if even the tiny amounts they still vomit and vomit that even the bile comes up…so parents ask so how do I know that I need to go to the hospital? I would tell them exactly what I just said and if you start to see bile, reach the nearest hospital.”
To weather out the rest of this peak season, for the stomach flu, it is ultimately back to proper hygiene and parents should keep their sick kids out of school until the illness has passed. For parents of asthmatic kid, they are urged to have an asthma action plan and to identify the triggers and avoid them.