Weather Woes: Wreaking Havoc on Health.

Friday, 24 August 2012

The tropical weather in Singapore, while enabling us to enjoy almost sunny days all year round, also exposes us to high humidity and rainfall. The weather changes at a drop of a hat, more so during the the Northeast Monsoon (December – March) and Southwest Monsoon (June – September).

During these months, sunny days are marred by the sudden onset of rain, which can escalate into thundery showers... often ending as abruptly as they start. When the onset of influenza or the common cold becomes rampant in society, there are usually a number of factors involved, and one of it can be attributed to the changes in weather conditions. 

As parents, we always place great emphasis on our children’s health and well-being. There’s really nothing worse than having to deal with a child who is barely able to make his pain known, and becoming increasingly fretful because he doesn’t as yet know how to deal with the discomfort.

So often I am reminded of my grandmother’s and my mother’s warnings as I was growing up:

“Rain when the sun shines, sure sick one!"

Well... their words of cautions were not as subtle, usually accompanied by high pitched shrieks while bundling us kids away from the pelting rain. We didn’t know any better then, except to think that they were such spoilsports to take us away from outdoor play because of the rain. I even remembered thinking how unreasonable they were to always insist on us having baths and showers, and yet prevent us from getting wet from the rain. There wasn’t much of a difference - to the mind of a pre-schooler – we got wet both ways!

Now that I’m a Mum, I’m so guilty of doing what they did, and repeating the mantra. When kids fall ill during these monsoon months, I have also been quick to attribute the influenza, sniffles and coughs to the weather change.

I do realize, however, that these common ailments do not magically manifest itself in the body because of erratic changes in weather conditions. Germs multiply freely and thrive in damp and humid conditions. Rain pelting down mercilessly on hot tropical grounds makes a pretty conducive environment for bacteria to multiply... and it is these bacteria that cause us to fall ill.

Children are especially susceptible to the spread of bacteria, having lower immunity levels than we do. This makes them more prone to illnesses, especially during extreme weather changes. The spread amongst children in close proximity (schools, child care centres and playgrounds) cannot be so easily contained, as children have yet to feel the need of ‘personal space’ and they are socially pretty uninhibited.

BabyMoo has been taught (and practises) good hygiene habits since the time when we exposed him to outdoor play and encouraged him to mingle with other children. Keeping him home to be ‘safe’ from elements and illnesses just does not make much sense to me, especially since he is happiest out of doors and at play. He would also need to build up his own immunity in the meantime, and keeping him ‘Bubble Wrapped’ will not do anything for him, apart from making him (and myself!) extremely frustrated. Furthermore, there is just so much to how we can protect a child short of risking him being withdrawn and becoming socially inept.

BabyMoo knows that he should always wash his hands the moment he comes home, even though it is for a short time at the play ground near our home. He also heads to the sink to wash his hands before he climbs up to his high chair for meals, and when we forget (yes, we do!) he is apt to remind us by dragging his little stool near the kitchen sink! It also helps that BabyMoo is pretty fussy when it comes to cleanliness, so it wasn’t difficult at all to instil these habits on him. 

Washing his hands is actually an opportunity for him to play with soap and water!
Washing hands regularly can not only protect against direct contact with someone who may have the flu virus, but it also protects against indirect contact (touching a playground apparatus which has been handled by an infected person). Since the boy plays outdoors daily, I always make sure that he at least washes his hand thoroughly, as a proactive measure in encouraging his well-being.

While we cannot control the weather conditions, I figured that I can attempt to minimise the exposure to germs and bacteria by ensuring that the entire family practise good personal hygiene, helped with an anti-bacterial soap. Sometimes it can be so tempting to ‘forget’, especially when the boy is being fretful or when I’m too tired to even walk another step – but the prospect of increasing the probability of illnesses and its consequences is enough to make me remember.

“Prevention is always better than cure” - an overused cliché, perhaps... but something that I now see the wisdom of, more than before.

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