Anyone who’s lived in this emirate for any length of time will notice its capacity to infect one with all manner of minor – and not so minor ills.
Yes, as well as sand, sunshine and salacious gossip, Dubai is also abundant in all things buggy. From sore throats and sticky sinuses to coughs, croup, colds and bronchial nasties, it is a city that is unceasingly generous when it comes to icky respiratory tracts.
But more curious than the huge number of ailments here, are the causes of them, and their cures – at least according to the local population anyway.
For example, just recently, the toddler went through a six-month bug marathon. He suffered all sorts of complaints, from curious rashes, spots and fevers, to drippy noses and night sweats. DH and I were left ringing our hands in frustration, as our family doc wrote out yet another prescription for antibiotics. Even he, a respected man of science, could offer a no more convincing explanation than, ‘well, there’s a lot of it about…’
DH responded by developing a handwashing OCD, which included carrying small bottles of alcohol sanitizer everywhere he went. Initially, I supported him, but then it all got a bit Howard Hughes – especially when he’d insist on doling it out every five minutes, ‘because they’re everywhere!’
And anyway, it didn’t work. So the toddler’s continually wan appearance, and non-appearance at his little friend’s birthday parties, became a subject of discussion on the school run…
‘It’s the AC! It harbours so many horrible diseases!’ declared several mothers – who then dug deep into their It Bags and gave me business cards for a range of air conditioning cleaning services.
Another, particularly angry parent (I call her MOM – Morally Outraged Mum, because she’s always ‘morally outraged’ about something), had also declared a futile war against her AC. And she told me that, ‘They [the super-duper air conditioning crack commando unit she’d hired at huge expense] found three strains of Legionnaire’s disease in our vents! I mean really!’
Oooh! The cheek of it.
Meanwhile, Mumbai Mum insisted it was the weather. She made little Sanjay (aged two) wear a thick woolly hat, boots and a jumper even though it was 27 degrees, ‘so that the cold drafts don’t get to his throat and give him body heat. This weather’s very bad,’ she added earnestly. Mumbai Mum then looked pityingly at the toddler, who was dressed in a t-shirt and shorts, before giving me a recipe for Masala tea.
French Mum was typically Gallic about the whole thing, and said her ‘Jean-Philippe’ had suffered the exact same thing – and that she’d tried all manner of treatments, but finally, the only thing that worked was onions.
‘Onions?’ I tried and failed to hide my dubious belief in her cure-all.
‘Why yes!’ she replied emphatically, ‘I swear by them these days. Just take two or three large onions, and chop them finely. Then, get two containers, and put the onions into them, and make your child hold the containers over his ears. If he makes a fuss, strap them on with a crepe bandage.’
At this point, a vision of the toddler looking like something out of Buck Rogers in the 25th Century popped involuntarily into my head.
Then Lebanese Mum, who fancies herself a bit of Parisian, leapt to French Mum’s defense by adding, ‘I don’t make Fadi wear the onions, but I do put piles of freshly chopped ones in his room at night. And I do think it really helps.’
Helps what exactly? I wanted to say. And, did she ever wonder why Fadi’s sleepover invitations were politely declined?
But that would have been rude. So, I said I’d give it a whirl, knowing full well that wrestling onion-filled home-made earmuffs onto the toddler would a) never work because he’s a stroppy little bugger, and b) because it’s completely bonkers.
So, the search for a remedy went on, which led me to South African Mum, who favoured the radical approach – a sort of no-nonsense-scare-the-living-daylights-out-of-those-jumped-up-bugs strategy. ‘I didn’t hesitate,’ she said, giving me the kind of terrifying look that would stop a charging adult rhino at 50 paces. ‘As soon as it started, I took Mathew straight to the ENT specialist, and demanded they take out his tonsils and adenoids. I’m not putting up with months of infections!’
Her best friend however (Aussie Mum) wasn’t quite ready to take the surgical plunge. But this was mostly because she thought that pollution was to blame. ‘I think it’s all the chemical plants and factories, leaking God knows what into the atmosphere,’ she said, as she wiped her toddler’s nose (who was also in the midst of a six-month bug marathon). ‘And then there’s the airport. It’s so busy. And if you live in the flight path, the air you’re breathing is probably full of aviation fuel fumes.’
It sounded plausible – but also rather conspiracy theorist, and I imagined her, Erin Brockovich style, collecting dead geckos in Mirdif Park as the planes came into land.
But none of the above really helped me understand why there are so many bugs here – or what to do about them. I’m still completely none the wiser. Although thankfully, the toddler eventually recovered his mojo, and as such, is happily back to his relentless, destructive self.
Now does anyone out there have a cure for that?