Two months ago, on a cold Monday morning, the time was 6: am. Three sleepy young children, dressed in cream short uniforms, stood anxiously under a tree with a female youthful caretaker.
The girls, who were carrying little school bags, shook uncontrollably as they did not have any warm clothing over their uniforms. A few minutes later, a motorcycle rider approached them and asked the caretaker to quickly put the girls on the motorcycle as he had to pick more children from a different location.
Two of the girls were lifted hurriedly to sit behind the rider, while the third sat in front of him. The caretaker handed the bags to the one seated on the front to carry. As they rode off, I could not help but feel sorry for the little girls as they shook uncontrollably from the cold.
Risk of allergies
Since movement on a motorcycle involves tearing through the wind, dust particles, moles and pollen are forced into the airway, increasing a person risk of developing allergies.
“These allergies range from the child getting a runny or blocked nose, or conditions such as asthma,” says Dr Ken Bagonza, the centre manager at AAR health services at Freedom City, along Entebbe Road.
In such a situation, a child may be forced to use their mouth instead of nose to breath.
“The hair in our nose helps to filter most of the dirt that come with the air we breathe. so when a child’s nose gets stuffy, they are forced to use their mouth to breath, and in the process, they breath in dirt that causes allergies” says Dr Bagonza.
Another condition that can arise from such early morning rides is a skin irritation known as cold urticaria. “It is a kind of skin allergic reaction to cold, where a person develops itchy uncomfortable hives on their body, but which tend to disappear after a few hours,” explains Dr Bagonza. This kind of condition though, Dr Bagonza says, is rare.
Besides the nose and skin, the eyes also tend to get affected as a result of these rides.“The winds carry all sorts of particles and if these foreign bodies are exposed to your eyes, they are likely to cause irritation. The wind may dry the eyes, eventually leading to inflammation, as there is nothing to lubricate them,” says Dr Bagonza.
“Parents should ensure their children wear jackets, sweaters or scarfs to prevent the cold wind from getting through their nose and cause allergies,” says Dr Sabrina Bakeera Kitaka, a senior paediatrician, at the department of paediatrics and child health at Makerere University.
To prevent foreign bodies from entering and irritating the eyes, Dr Kitaka says children should be provided with plastic goggles. She says there are masks on the market that can be worn over the nose. These masks help to filter the air that a child breathes.
Besides the health-related problems, many children risk accidents on their way to school, because of the way in which they are ridden to school. Police say many of the riders are reckless, and this increases the risk of children being knocked off the boda boda motorcycles.
“Unlike adults, children are always ridden under the mercy of the rider because they are too young to know what is right or wrong,” says Fred Enanga, the police spokesperson.
If a parent has to use the services of a boda boda, Enanga says they should ensure the children are accompanied by an adult.