By Sarah Wali
Several students last week got sick at school, doctors at the AUC clinic said, the illness an infection likely caused by sudden temperature changes as they left air conditioned classes and entered the sunny campus.
The clinic noted several cases of gastroenteritis, an illness triggered by an infection or inflammation in the digestive system.
Dr. Mohamed Amin, acting director of the clinic, said he has treated students with diarrhea and vomiting on campus, symptoms of the illness.
According to pediatrician Dr. Ingy Shaaban, the sudden change in weather makes a person vulnerable to infection.
“When you are in a cold area your body creates mucus to protect your respiratory system,” Dr Shaaban said. “If you then immediately walk into a very warm area you are creating an ideal situation where bacteria can easily grow.”
Engineering student Gerges Kostandy was among the students who got sick.
“You go from a room where the air conditioning is so high you are shivering in class to outside where you stand in the desert heat,” Kostandy said. “Of course you are going to get sick.”
Kostandy started experiencing symptoms within the first two days of class. At first it seemed like a normal flu, he said. But his condition worsened, and soon he was bed-ridden.
“I got really scared when I started throwing up blood,” Kostandy said. “The doctors didn’t know what was wrong with me. All I know is that I started feeling like I was sick at school.”
Dr. Shaaban said the change in temperatures is ideal for bacteria to grow.
“Every time you breathe in, the bacteria in that area travels further inside your body,” she said. “If you are already sick, or are weak in a certain area you may experience more intense symptoms.”
The condition can result in the patient experiencing different ailments, she said, including fever, headaches, sore muscles, vomiting and cold shakes.
In order to avoid such issues, air conditioning should be set at a reasonable temperature, she said.
Campus staff said there is no regulated temperature for classrooms.
“The temperature is set by each thermostat in the room,” said one staff member, who asked to remain anonymous because he wasn’t authorized to comment. “Right now, some of them aren’t working. When we fix them, we put the temperature at 20 degrees.”
Muslim students have dealt with the difficulties of the move while fasting during Ramadan. Since fasting prohibits all drinking and eating until sunset, students feel weaker and more susceptible to many of these ailments.
“I have these classes where they can’t control the air in the room,” said sophomore Mustafa Saba. “I’m numb when I leave the classroom. Then I step outside in the desert heat, and there is nowhere to stand that isn’t outside. I can’t drink water and I’m just weak all day.”
Although Saba has not yet missed any classes, he is battling the flu. He has a stuffy nose, headache, and sometimes flu fever. He has been toughing out his classes so far, but is concerned about his health.
“Until they control the temperature in the classrooms, I won’t get better fully,” Saba said.