What’s the deal with Dengue? Is “Singapore Foot” a real thing? Consult this cheat sheet to keep your family healthy and safe.
– When outdoors, particularly amid lush vegetation or near potentially stagnant water, don loose fitting, long-sleeved and light-coloured clothing to prevent being an easy target for mozzies.
– Put on a repellent – there’s an arsenal of sprays, lotions, wipes and patches to choose from. Not fond of having it on skin? Try bracelets or an OFF! clip-on mosquito repellent kit ($9.90) found at Guardian. They can chase off the flying pests with fan-circulated, odourless repellent.
– Or, get the world’s first dengue vaccine, Dengvaxia, approved by the Health Sciences Authority (HSA) for people aged 12 to 45. It’s been proven to protect against all four dengue strains with varying efficacy. Look up a GP on the Singhealth website to get vaccinated.
– Forget to check on the suitability of repellent for your kiddos. If you have concerns about the effects of DEET or any other ingredients in your repellent, opt for products that contain natural or plant-based ingredients such as lavender, lemon eucalyptus oil and citronella. Even then, make sure to read the label and find out more before using them on young ones.
– Leave water standing in and around the house – all it takes is a bottle cap sized body of water for eggs to be laid. Follow the guidelines of the National Environment Agency’s (NEA) “Do the Mozzie Wipeout” campaign, such as keeping unused storage containers overturned.
– If you show symptoms, don’t just pop two aspirin tabs to sleep it off. Getting diagnosed early helps in alerting the authorities and physicians to take action to prevent cluster outbreaks in the community and for the unaffected members of your fam to keep vigilant and safe.
– Aside from the usual precautions to take to avoid bites – Malaria is most commonly transmitted through the Anopheles mosquito – there’s an extra measure to take against preventing malaria: Sleep under a bed net as Anopheles mosquitos are “night biters”. This is important as in some areas, the mosquitoes have become resistant to the active ingredients in your repellent, rendering it useless.
– While the risk is low within Singapore, be on your toes when traveling through Southeast Asian countries, particularly the more rural parts. Before packing yourself and the brood off to countries in the region, scoot over to any clinics or hospitals here that dispense travel medicine, at least 4 to 6 weeks before the trip, for antimalarial advice and medication.
– Hang out in forested and waterlogged areas at night, or places where there’s an outbreak. Stay safe in sealed air-conditioned comfort where the chances of being bitten are lesser.
– Assume Malaria medicine is one-size-fits-all. The choice of anti-malarial prevention tablets, for instnace, need to take into account your age, medical history and other health factors. Make sure your doctor advises each member of your fam individually.
– Like dengue, if symptoms appear, don’t ignore them. Malaria causes fevers and tiredness, but when things get really serious, it can be fatal. Get diagnosed and treated stat, wherever you’re at.
– Load up on protein- and antioxidant-rich foods and micronutrients like vitamins A, D and E. It will help strengthen your immune system, combat malnutrition and the effects of weight loss caused by the disease.
– Practice cough etiquette and respiratory hygiene. TB is a highly-infectious air-borne disease, so wear a face mask if you have a cough when you’re out to prevent TB bacteria from getting around – a pack of Watsons’ inhouse brand of hygienic face masks ($1.90) will do fine.
– If you suspect you might have been exposed to someone with TB – symptoms include chills, fatigue and weeks-long coughs – contact a doctor to get a skin or blood test. Don’t just wipe and forget.
– Binge on fried foods containing trans-fatty acids, which may exacerbate TB symptoms such as abdominal cramping and diarrhoea.
– Dismiss your symptoms. They may start as signs that are easier to brush off – chills, coughing, or slight breathing difficulties – but TB is actually one of the deadliest diseases in the world. We don’t mean to scare you, but Singapore’s TB numbers have risen from 1,498 new cases in 2015, to 1,617 in 2016, according to the 2017 report by the Ministry of Health (MOH).
– Stall, forego or cease taking your medications just because you feel better. Treatment takes anywhere from six to 24 months, and if you discontinue your course of antibiotics, a relapse might occur and the disease might become even harder to cure.
– Childcare centres, kindergartens and schools are often ground zero for seasonal outbreaks of this contagious illness. Teach your kid good hygiene practices: Wash hands frequently with soap, use a tissue when coughing or sneezing (and bin it properly after) and don’t share eating utensils.
– To help make mouth ulcers more tolerable, try sucking on ice pops or eating ice cream – surely that would lift your kid’s mood, too. Avoid acidic foods like citrus fruits, as well as salty or spicy foods.
– The good news: If your fever will typically resolve after five to seven days. But if it doesn’t, consult a doctor for further evaluation.
– Neglect the signs. If you spot mouth ulcers, or blisters on your child’s hands or feet, take him to get a thorough medical examination immediately. Look beyond the physical as well – signs can menifest in the form of irritability, lethargy, or poor appetite. And don’t let him continue going to school!
– It’s a common misconception that HFMD is like chickenpox in that you can only catch it once, but that’s not true. Even if your child has recovered from HFMD, keep up the preventive measures to avoid him contracting it again.
– Let your guard down. The peak time for HFMD is typically spring to fall, but in Singapore, it’s present all year round. Make good hygiene a habit in both you and your child by setting a good example.
– Hepatitis B is transmitted through blood and bodily fluids, while Hepatitis A can be spread through contact with poop and contaminated hands, utensils, drinks and food, particularly raw or partially cooked shellfish, too. Again, exercise a hygiene regime.
– Eat right. A loss of appetite often accompanies hepatitis B, but it’s still important to eat well. For most people, their appetite gets worse as the day goes on, so try eating a more substantial meal in the morning, and lighter meals later in the day. Keep well-hydated, too, especially if you’re experiencing vomiting.
– Immunisation is available for hepatitis. And, it’s considered to be very safe and effective even for infants and young children.
– Eat processed foods. These are hard on the liver – whose function is heavily affected when you’re being attacked by the hepatitis virus – and relatively devoid of nutrients. This can delay your recovery; instead, include proteins in your diet, as well as antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables as theses can protect your liver cells from damage.
– Allow contact through blood. If you’ve got any open wounds, dress them carefully, and be sure to avoid leaving any blood stains on your towels or around the house to prevent the spread of hepatitis B. Clean up any blood with fresh diluted bleach solution (mix 1 part bleach with 9 parts water).
– Thanks to the region’s hot, humid and wet weather, common fungal skin infections such as athlete’s foot (also called “Hong Kong foot” or, as noted in fact book Singapore at Random, “Singapore foot”) can be more challenging to kick. Alternate your shoes and change out socks often. Or, better yet, simply free your tootsies in open-aired flip-flops or sandals so your feet.
– Keep your feet clean. This doesn’t just mean washing them well when showering, but also drying them well. Dry between your toes, too.
– Cease taking your medications even if you’ve gotten better. To prevent athlete’s foot from returning, use the full course of all medicine as directed, even after symptoms have gone away.
– Go overboard with home treatments. For better and faster results, soak your feet in bleach water for 10 minutes every night to kill off the fungus. But more water, less bleach, obviously – mixing in too much bleach can burn your skin.
– Step on dirty, damp surfaces, such as floors in public showers, while barefoot. You’re basically giving the fungi free reign to attack your feet.
– Pay attention to signs of discomfort. This ear inflammation can lead to symptoms such as pain or a feeling of fullness in the ear. Children often don’t know how to convey this, so don’t dismiss your child when she says her ears “feel funny”.
– If your little mermaid is always taking dips in the pool, have her put in ear plugs or pull on a swim cap first.
– After her swim, keep her ears clean and dry. Try not to use instrumental means like cotton swabs, though. Tip her head to the side until all of the water runs out of her ear, and repeat on the other side. If necessary – say, she’s had ongoing problems of swimmer’s ear – carefully dry her ear with a hair dryer set to the coolest setting.
– Persistent symptoms? Consult an ENT specialist about how to clear them out.
– Be too invasive. Frequent instrumentation of the ear canal, such as using cotton swabs, could potentially trigger an external ear infection.
– Clean out all your ear wax. Too much ear wax can cause problems, but so can too little. Especially when it comes to swimmer’s ear – ear wax repels water, so sometimes it pays to keep a little less “clean”.
By Chris Ong and Pinky Chng, The Finder (Issue 285), July 2017
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