The new school term could see an unwelcome companion to thousands of children returning to the classroom in Barbados – a rash of respiratory illnesses – the head of the Barbados Association of Medical Practitioners (BAMP) warned on Tuesday.
Amid a spate of virulent flu and dengue cases, BAMP president Dr Lynda Williams cautioned parents and guardians to keep their wards at home if they are unwell.
While there is no need to panic over the spread of respiratory illness during the current flu and cold season, she said, the start of the new school term could create a health challenge.
Dr WIlliams told Barbados TODAY: “The Barbados Association of Medical Practitioners agrees that there is no need to panic about the spread of respiratory illness. But with the return of children to school, we know that respiratory illnesses can spread very quickly among children, and so, we want to remind parents to not send to school their children if they are sick.”
The BAMP head also advised parents to stay away from their workplaces, too, if they are sick and to take all necessary steps to protect themselves and others from contracting any viruses. While the exact figures were not available, she noted that the flu and cold season were dominated by COVID-19, influenza and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).
“Cover your cough, wear a mask if you are vulnerable or if you are going to be handling those who are vulnerable,” said Dr Williams. “If you are feeling really unwell, you should seek medical advice if you have shortness of breath, high fever, chest pain or you are coughing up a lot of mucous, and particularly if it’s blood-tinged, Those are signs that you are not getting better, and you need more than just the regular cough and cold medications.”
Dr Williams then turned her attention to those who have dengue fever and are experiencing such symptoms as high fever, joint pains and headaches.
“The confluence of the dengue-type viruses along with the flu and cold season can potentially be a problem. If you have dengue fever and your lowered immune system, you can be more prone to getting other viruses as well,” she said. “So, protection against dengue fever involves wearing insect repellant, mosquito netting screens, [and] turning over those receptacles containing water in your house. Let’s fight these viruses, let’s fight them together, and we will make stronger communities and better people.”
Speaking for the nation’s chemists, Marlon Ward-Rogers, the president of the Barbados Pharmaceutical Society (BPS), reported an uptick in people seeking flu and cold-related medications.
But he cautioned that dengue requires different drugs although the symptoms mimic respiratory infections: “We don’t want people, if they have dengue symptoms, to be using the NSAIDs [nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs] such as Advil and Aleve. You want to avoid those. If they have dengue-like symptoms they should instead use things like Paracetamol, Panadol or Decetamol.”
Senior officials from the Ministry of Health and Wellness and the Ministry of Education were unavailable for comment at the time of publication.