Syrian refugee children tend to be resilient but face unique health issues
Refugee children may show anxiety, depression, loss of appetite or acting out behaviour on arrival
Refugee children and young people from Syria and Iraq could present with a variety of health issues, says a pediatrician who is already treating some of them.
Dr. Anna Banerji is a pediatric infectious disease specialist who works with refugees in Toronto.
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"The big thing I see in probably 50 per cent or more of the kids is they have dental decay. They have rotten teeth," Banerji said.
"I haven't seen a lot of tuberculosis, but I have."
Other issues she commonly sees among refugees from Iraq and Syria include:
- Intestinal parasites from drinking contaminated water. The parasites cause discomfort and can interfere with growth.
- An enzyme deficiency called G6PD that if missed can have serious consequences with certain foods and medications.
- Lack of immunizations.
Children tend to be resilient and pick up the language faster than adults, Banerji said.
"But they still can have anxiety, depression, loss of appetite or acting out behaviour. In the beginning you may not see it but after the honeymoon phase is over, you may see them breaking the rules."
Syrian families often have to adjust to a lower standard of living once they arrive in Canada as well as different foods, she said. They may be expecting paradise without initially realizing they need to learn the language and make new friends.