Influenza Virus Highly Active in the UAE

Dubai: A high incidence of influenza is being reported in the UAE as summer transitions to winter and doctors are advising residents to prevent infection by getting vaccinated.

Dr. Sandeep Pargi, a senior pulmonologist from Aster Hospital, Bur Dubai told Gulf News: “I have been signing at least two sick leave certificates per day for the last fortnight.”

He attributes the high incidence of influenza to the change in season.

“Every year the genetic make-up of viruses undergo changes. Just as our immune systems gets used to one strain, new strains appear. In addition to this, around this time, especially since a huge contingent of residents on vacation to their native countries return with new strains. The viral load gets high, and the changing season also has a high level of allergens in the atmosphere causing the onset of infections.”

Dr. Pargi added that infection was spreading because “People have been confined to closed air conditioned rooms for long owing to the heat and viruses were thriving in AC vents and spreading through it.”

The typical duration of an influenza bout is about 5-7 days. In a case of children the infection can last up to a fortnight and in cases of those who have a compromised immune system because of advancing age or diabetes or du to pre-existing respiratory diseases such as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), asthma is more susceptible to catching the virus.

The vaccination approved by the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) is available at all government Primary Health Centres and private clinics and hospitals by the beginning of September which is the beginning of the influenza season in the UAE.

“It is advisable to get vaccinated to prevent flu right in the beginning of September. Anyone from the above the age of six months is advised to get this vaccination which gives an individual protection for a year.,” said Dr. Pargi who advised against any antibiotic treatment. “Antibiotics are only given when there is a secondary bacterial infection. Otherwise, paracetamol, antihistamines a strong dose of 1000 mg Vitamin C, some steaming, and complete rest are enough to get your immune system to respond.”

How to keep influenza away

Practice hand hygiene and always sanitize especially when using public places or even touching door knobs in offices or cabs

Get an influenza vaccination at the beginning of September

Keep your immune system strong with strong doses of Vitamin C

Take steam inhalation and keep yourself warm

Cover your mouth when you sneeze or a cough as a sneeze can transmit an infection droplet from six feet across.

Avoid visiting public places such as swimming pools, Turkish baths and even pubs which are crowded

If you are diabetic or suffer from any respiratory disease visit your GP for a preventive check.


Dr.Sandeep Pargi

Specialist Pulmonologist

Aster Hospital Mankhool

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Sudden Infant Death Syndrome: Causes and Prevention

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome: Causes and Prevention

Sudden infant death syndrome is when a baby is younger than 1 year old dies suddenly for no reason .SIDS is sometimes called crib death. It happens when a baby is sleeping, usually between midnight and 6 AM .Almost all babies who die from SIDS are younger than 6 months old.


Causes of SIDS


SIDS is more likely to happen when a baby:

  • Sleeps on stomach
  • Sleeps on a soft surface or with pillows, blankets or stuffed animals in the bed.
  • Sleeps in bed, or on a sofa, with an adult or another child.
  • Is too warm or wears too many clothes when sleeping
  • Is born to a mother who smokes
  • Is born to a mother who is younger than 20 years old or who did not get medical care during pregnancy
  • Is born too early or weighs less than normal at birth


Can SIDS be prevented?


No. SIDS can’t be prevented and there is no test that can tell if it is going to happen. But there are things that parents can do to lower the chance that it will happen .To lower the chance of SIDS, do the following:


  • Put your baby on his or her back to sleep.
  • Put your baby to sleep in a crib, cradle or bassinet in your bedroom. If you want your baby to sleep near you, use a bassinet that attaches to your bed. Do not have your baby sleep in your bed with you.
  • Have your baby sleep on a firm surface and not on a cushion, waterbed, sofa or another soft surface.
  • Remove pillows, stuffed animals and other soft objects from the sleeping area. Do not use bumper pads in the crib.
  • Do not cover your baby’s head when he or she is sleeping.
  • Do not dress your baby in too many clothes or keep the room too warm when he or she is sleeping.
  • Stop smoking and do not let anyone smoke in the house or car.
  • Breastfeed your baby.


Dr. Binoy Nellisery 

Paediatrics & Neonatology 

Aster Hospital Mankhool


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Vitamin D and its Importance

As per the International Osteoporosis Foundation (IOF), UAE is considered one of the hottest regions to live in, but a major section of the population living here still suffer from Vitamin D deficiency or insufficiency. In fact, Vitamin D deficiency is rather common among women and kids, the reasons for this may vary. One reason may be not consuming food rich in Vitamin D, lack of outdoor activity hence less exposure to the sun. A lot of Arab women suffer from the condition because of religious reasons where they cover themselves with long robes for prolonged hours, hence preventing exposure to sunlight. A lot also has to do with the geographic location, we receive so much sunlight that the weather makes outdoor activities close to nil. High intake of soft drinks could also be a reason for the deficiency in youngsters. Stress, diet, obesity, smoking, consumption of alcohol are also causative factors. Lack of Vitamin D is rather common in pregnant women, infants, and aged people but given the changed and convenient lifestyle choices of a lot of young people these days, they also suffer from the nutritional deficiency.


Vitamin D is one of the many important nutrients our body requires to stay healthy. Vitamin D plays a vital role in the proper functioning of the body by helping absorb calcium to build bones and keep them strong. Vitamin D also facilitates functioning of the immune system by fighting against infections and other illness, for instance, flu. This nutrient does play a role in reducing the risk of breast cancer, colon and prostate cancer, heart diseases, depression, weight gain etc. It is not proved that the lack of Vitamin D causes these conditions but people with higher levels of Vitamin D have the lower risk of developing these conditions.


The two most common conditions caused by a deficiency of Vitamin D are Rickets in children and Osteoporosis (bones become brittle) in adults. Vitamin D deficiency may differ in people depending on their body type and the need for the nutrient.  Some people have body types that have an increased need for Vitamin D, some do not make sufficient Vitamin D and others have a deficiency because of not enough dietary Vitamin D. Muscle pain or bone pain may suggest Vitamin D deficiency. In adults, general fatigue, pain in the neck, pain while performing daily activities like sitting or getting up from a chair, climbing stairs etc. are symptoms of deficiency. In children, delayed tooth, slower growth, respiratory symptoms, being prone to infections etc. may be the symptoms. Review of a patient’s medical history, symptoms, lifestyle and a simple blood test can reveal whether the patient has a lack of Vitamin D or not. There are available supplements and tablets for Vitamin D which can be used on being consulted and prescribed by a doctor. Certain lifestyle changes like including Vitamin D rich foods in your diet comprising orange juice fortified with Vitamin D, eggs, margarine butter, milk, sardine, tuna, cereals etc. will surely help go a long way in curbing the deficiency. Exposing yourself to sunlight for at least 10 minutes a day will help the skin absorb vitamin D because the sun is the main source of this nutrient.


Dr.George Thachil

General Medicine

Aster Clinic, Dubai Silicon Oasis


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Breastfeeding can reduce the chances of Breast Cancer.

Did you know?  Breastfeeding can give your baby a healthy start. But that’s not the only health benefit. It also can lower your breast cancer risk.


Pregnancy and breastfeeding have direct effects on breast cells, causing them to differentiate, or mature, so they can produce milk. These differentiated cells are more resistant to becoming transformed into cancer cells than cells that have not undergone differentiation.

Some pregnancy-related factors have been associated with a reduced risk of developing breast cancer later in life. These factors include the following:

  • Early age at first full-term pregnancy:Women who have their first full-term pregnancy at an early age have a decreased risk of developing breast cancer later in life. For example, a women who have a first full-term pregnancy before age 24, the risk of developing breast cancer is about half that of women whose first full-term pregnancy occurs after the age of 30.


  • Longer duration of breastfeeding:Breastfeeding for an extended period (at least a year) is associated with a decreased risk of breast cancer.


  • The hormones estrogen and progesterone have been linked to tumors, and breastfeeding acts as a natural contraceptive, lowering hormone levels to the extent that a woman’s menstrual cycle is halted.


Whether or not you breastfeed, there are lifestyle choices you can make to keep your breast cancer risk as low as it can be:

  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Exercising regularly
  • Limiting alcohol
  • Eating nutritious food
  • Never smoking(or quitting if you do smoke)


Dr.Ann Mini Mathew

Specialist Gynecologist

Aster Hospital, Mankhool



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Symptoms and Behavioral issues of Neuro – Development Disorders

On the occasion of World Mental health Day, we list out common symptoms that children with the above disorders show. While these have no direct relations with mental health, not managing the condition increases the risk of mental health problems.

If your child or children are showing any of the following, it is best to consult a paediatrician immediately. It may be nothing more than a phase, but knowing early can help you and more importantly, your child.

  • Communication disability and/or extreme social awkwardness
  • Rudeness due to lack of understanding of social cues- Inability to make eye contact,
  • Repetitive or obsessive compulsive behaviour and/or arranging things in continuous lines (with children getting extremely upset if the arrangement is disturbed),
  • Picky eating (with a strong tendency to get very upset and refusing to eat if food item is changed)
  • Lack of responsiveness (sensory)
  • Too sensitive to light, sound, noise and other sensory stimuli
  • Wanting to be alone or seeking out places to be alone
  • Hurting other children or adults with no provocation (repeated instances)
  • Lack of focus and extreme activity
  • Extremely averse to going to school despite showing signs of high intelligence.
  • Difficulty in handling cutlery and pens or pencils even after repeated help
  • Clumsiness and prone to falling frequently with no visible or significant trigger (after the age of 5)
  • Regular appearance of bruises from bumping into things at school or at home
  • Inability to understand jokes or social cues appropriate to age
  • Inability to read and write relative to age and level in school
  • Any other repetitive behaviour uncharacteristic to age or normal behavioural patterns

When the disorders are not diagnosed and children or young adults are left to handle them on their own, the risk of mental health issues becomes extremely high. Anger, anxiety, depression, inability to perform daily tasks and inability to be socially active are common in such cases.

These disorders and their symptoms vary from child to child. While some may exhibit very mild symptoms, others may be unable to function normally. Early diagnosis can help all children diagnosed with these disorders manage the symptoms effectively.

1. Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

ASD covers a wide range of disabilities and symptoms associated with an abnormality in brain development. Having a child with autism increases the probability of having another autistic child by 5 per cent.

2. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

Inability to focus and pay attention, difficulty to control emotions and excessive activity. ADHD can lead to other mental health problems if not managed appropriately.

3. Dyspraxia or developmental co-ordination disorder

Affects co-ordination skills for tasks requiring balance, kicking and throwing a ball and fine motor skills (writing or using small objects carefully) in children and adults – National health Service, UK. October 9 to 15 is being celebrated as Dyspraxia Awareness Week to ensure the condition gets diagnosed as early as possible and for increasing awareness among parents.

4. Dyslexia or reading disorder

Causes difficulty in reading and impair fluent reading and comprehension. Despite being intelligent, children may be unable to read or decode reading as easily.

5. Dysphasia

Affects language and communication learning

6. Dysgraphia

Difficulty in writing including issues in handwriting, spelling and organisation skills


Talking about the subject, Dr. P.M.M. Sayeed, a specialist in Paediatrics at Aster Clinic said, “What ‘expected behaviour’ is to parents is what makes or breaks the identification of symptoms. If parents refuse to accept that their child is behaving differently, as observed by a teacher for example, the child suffers.”

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