Children can play in the rain, just not standing water: Experts – The Express Tribune

by Symptom Advice on September 25, 2011

Two boys play in a pool of water near Jet Lines in Karachi where 20 mm of rain fell on Monday. PHOTO: EXPRESS

KARACHI: Contrary to a deeply entrenched belief, playing in the rain does not make your child sick, doctors say.

“The real issue is to convince people how diseases break out,” explains paediatrician Dr Sohail Thobani. “They happen because of an attack on the body by germs which are usually transmitted from one person to another.”

This does not mean that precautions should not be taken. the chair of paediatrics and child health at Aga Khan University Hospital (AKUH), Dr Anita Zaidi, says timing matters. “While there is no harm in children playing in the rain, they should not stay drenched for too long,” she says. “Especially children under two years of age should not play in the rain for longer than an hour, it puts them at risk for hypothermia.” Young children can lose too much body heat if they stay in the water too long.

Parents should instead be concerned if their child is playing in standing water. “There is a good chance of them contracting a number of diseases from playing in standing water,” says Zaidi. This water is not purely rain water but is mixed with sewage that has a high fecal content. Standing water also becomes a breeding ground for mosquitoes, responsible for the spread of dengue. Children will also be at risk of diarrhoea and skin infections.

But as far as simply enjoying the monsoon rain and splashing around rain water is concerned, doctors say parents need not worry. “We have certain cultural perceptions and then we have scientific fact. the two are poles apart,” Dr Thobani says. “In medicine it will always be your grandmother who knows more than the doctor.”

When it comes to contact with water, parents need to understand the difference between two types of diseases: viral and bacterial. Viral diseases, such as the common cold, will treat themselves regardless of whether medication is used or not. Medication may help ease some of the symptoms but the illness is self-treating.

It is not that simple for bacterial diseases, whose treatment with antibiotics is debated by doctors. Typhoid, for example, which is transmitted from a germ spread through stool, needs to be treated with antibiotics. “That is why using an Indian toilet is more hygienic in some aspects as your body does not come in contact with the toilet seat,” Dr Thobani says.

On the other hand, Dr Zaidi says, “Antibiotics are not necessarily required for bacterial infections; however, it must be taken with diseases such as cholera and blood diarrhoea.” Pneumonia can have both bacterial and viral properties. but again this will not happen by just playing in the rain – you would have to come in contact with someone who is already infected.

Published in the Express Tribune, September 13th,  2011.

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