| Children's health is a major concern
for all parents, and this intensifies for Expats with
children living in China. It is the 'unknown' that causes
Leaving aside world-wide diseases, each country or area
also has its more local diseases or versions of them.
Natives can grow up with natural immunity to them, but
they can be a problem for foreigners with no natural
antibodies in their systems.
In this page we will take a brief look at what you should
be concerned about:
No doubt your child will have followed a regular timetable
of injections in your home country before coming to
live in China. We advise you to continue this in China,
and also have any extra jabs not given in your home
country. These could be locally important.
Those of you who have children born in China should
automatically come under the Chinese Healthcare provision
- which provides something like 24 jabs over the first
5-years of life. Most of these are free for Chinese
people, although a few are paid for as extra's. Foreigners
will have to pay for them all, but the cost is generally
We would warn against giving your child the Cholera
vaccination before coming to China, as apart from earthquake
zones, this disease is not a problem - it is caused
by imbibing contaminated water. The injection often
causes flu-like symptoms and nausea/distress for many
months afterwards. This in turn can lower a persons
resistance to other new diseases that would otherwise
be shrugged off quite easily.
If you do not come from the UK, then you should know
what your blood type is, including the rhesus + or -
factor. UK citizens do not have access to this information
as their health service guards it jealously as being
'Top Secret'! To find out you have to pay for a special
test, or go and give blood.
Blood type is important in Asia, and especially China,
where more than 99% of the population are rhesus + positive.
Therefore if you have rhesus - negative blood and require
a serious operation or transfusion - you could have
severe problems. In this instance, we would suggest
you notify your local hospital that you are resident
in China, and your or another family member is rhesus
negative. They will not stock-pile blood just in case
you need it, but they will put supply provisions in
Otherwise Chinese and Hong Kong citizens have a fairly
mixed group of all rhesus positive blood.
Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease
This disease is prevalent in Hong Kong and Guangdong,
and appearing in clusters all over China. It is like
a severe influenza, whilst more akin to chicken pox.
The child feels unwell and is not hungry. They
loose interest, become lethargic and may complain
of a sore throat. Soon red blotches appear on
the tongue and inside the mouth, which turn into
white blisters. This spreads to red spots on the
hands and feet. Not all people have all of the
This disease usually affects primary school ages,
and often schools are closed for a month following
an outbreak. Anyone is at risk of catching it,
including infants and adults. Adults usually have
the necessary antibodies in their systems to deal
with any infection unnoticed.
For the technically minded, HFMD is caused by viruses
that belong to the enterovirus genus (group). This group
of viruses includes polioviruses, coxsackieviruses,
echoviruses, and enteroviruses. The majority of infections
are cause by either Coxsackievirus A16 or Enterovirus
Prevention and Treatment
There is no vaccination, and both prevention and treatment
involve good personal hygiene and avoiding contact with
infected people, or anything they touch.
Parents of infected youngsters will most likely also
have the disease, to which they will appear immune.
However, whilst the disease is in their systems, they
can pass this on to others!
Neither is there any direct treatment and you should
allow the disease to run its course. Relief in the form
of painkillers and sprays is available from your local
Chinese medical practitioners. Otherwise simply ensure
the patient has enough fluid intake.
My wife's Brother's daughter (Loi Loi aged 4) had this
disease in June of 2010 and she was kept off school
for 2-weeks. She was very lethargic and not interested
in anyone or anything for about 5 days. The illness
ran its course in about 9 days; however she was still
infectious to others for a full week after this!
HFMD is not normally in itself a life-threatening disease,
but very occasionally it is combined with other infections
of a far more deadly nature. It is responsible for a
few score deaths worldwide each year, usually those
suffering already from immune deficiencies. We are not
health professionals, so if you have any concerns whatsoever,
seek immediate advice from your local heath practitioner.
Infection is spread from person to person by direct
contact with infectious virus. Infectious virus is found
in the nose and throat secretions, saliva, blister fluid,
and stools of infected people. The virus is most often
spread by persons with unwashed, virus-contaminated
hands and by contact with virus-contaminated surfaces.
Wash hands regularly, and also toys and cutlery etc.
All surfaces, toys, and other items should first be
washed with soap and water, and then thoroughly cleansed
with a mild bleach solution. This will help stem the
spread of the disease to others.
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