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A possible 3rd wave of COVID, the Delta variant in India, and kids under 18 being unvaccinated while schools may re-open, here’s what parents should know.
With the COVID-19 cases reducing and lockdowns slowly opening, concerns about the third wave of the pandemic are rising. And with the emerging variants like the Delta-plus, the question in the minds of everyone is what next?
We are worried about our children, as being unvaccinated, they are the most vulnerable. There is a fear amongst everyone that the next surge is going to affect children the most. But it is prudent to know that according to the Indian Academy of Pediatrics (IAP), although children remain prone to infection, it is “highly unlikely that the third wave will predominantly or exclusively affect children”.
The Delta and Delta-plus strains of the virus are mutated ones, it means that they tend to spread faster. Children, if infected, can rapidly spread it to others- other children, unvaccinated adults and even the vulnerable groups like the elderly and immune-compromised.
Having said this, we also need to remember that the infection caused by the coronavirus in children is often milder when compared to adults. This is because their immune system reacts differently to the virus. Hence, most of them end up with an asymptomatic infection. Such children are usually diagnosed incidentally, when the adults of the family are tested positive, or these children undergo tests before admission for another illness or surgery. Complications of COVID-19 are usually rare in children.
It is important for parents and caregivers to remember a few things regarding COVID-19 infection in children:
Ensure proper nutrition and exercise to keep children active and healthy.
Try to give a proper diet with all food groups. Make sure to include fruits, vegetables and adequate water in the diet. This can be followed by all members of the family. As children tend to mimic adults, it will be easier to get results.
Exercising with the restrictions imposed does become a tad difficult but its importance cannot be overstated. Exercises like yoga can be practiced indoors. Where it is possible to go outdoors, children can engage in sports and other activities.
Good nutrition and exercise are important pillars in this fight against the pandemic. One should remember that obesity in kids increases the severity of COVID-19 and other complications as well.
The basic immunization schedule should be completed.
This includes all the vaccines recommended in the national immunization schedule, and if the parents or caregivers can afford, other optional vaccines as well.
Also, it is now recommended to give the flu vaccine to all below 18 years of age, as this will reduce the cases of flu which has similar symptoms as COVID-19 and thus help in identifying those children who actually have the COVID-19 infection. It will also help in reducing the need for hospitalization for flu and free up beds for cases of COVID-19.
Be vigilant in case of kids with co-morbidities.
Children with co-morbidities like congenital heart disease, lung dysfunction, those on chemotherapy or other immune-modulators, children with juvenile diabetes and those with special needs- should undergo routine check-ups with the paediatrician or the treating doctor to pick up any danger sign early. Parents and caregivers of such children need to be extra careful too.
Children with COVID-19 infection are usually either asymptomatic or with milder symptoms.
Parents also need to remember that most children with COVID-19 are asymptomatic. And from those who do get symptoms, they are usually mild like fever, cold, cough, diarrhoea, vomiting, and pain in abdomen. Most settle on their own. However, any symptom persisting more than 4-5 days warrants examination by the doctor.
During this time, parents should maintain a chart or diary to record the fever, the breathing rate, activity level, oxygen saturation, oral intake and urine output. This will enable the doctor to identify high risk cases faster.
Be vigilant for symptoms of Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C).
Another thing of concern is the Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C).
This is a serious condition, and occurs 2-6 weeks after the child has been exposed or infected with COVID-19. It has varied symptoms like high fever, rash, conjunctivitis (sore eyes), diarrhoea, vomiting, pain in abdomen and drowsiness. This condition affects multiple organs in the body like the heart, liver, kidneys, so it is important that it is diagnosed early to prevent any irreparable damage to the organs. Once picked up, it can be treated well.
All adults must take the COVID vaccine and break chain of transmission.
It is important for all adults to take the COVID-19 vaccine so that they can be protected, and the chain of transmission can be broken. The vaccination will also ensure faster recovery in case they get infected by the virus.
Continue to follow appropriate COVID protocol.
People tend to get lax as cases reduce, but we need to follow all the COVID-appropriate behaviour. Wear masks properly covering the nose and chin, wash hands regularly with soap and water or a sanitizer, and avoid crowded places where maintaining social distancing becomes difficult.
Remember children mimic adults, so enforcing this behaviour in them will be easier if adults in the family follow it too.
It is important to talk to the children and comfort them if anxious.
It is also important to understand the frustration and anxiety in children arising from them being cooped up indoors for a long while. It is natural for them to want to go out and explore. This may manifest as tantrums or depression. Counselling them plays an important role here. If necessary, the help of professional counsellors should be sought to deal with this.
Children can’t be truly isolated, so more vulnerable adults must do it instead.
Another thing is if children do get infected, it is difficult to completely isolate them. If there are vulnerable people in the family like pregnant women or elderly, they should be isolated instead.
Until vaccines are available for children, it is important to stay vigilant and not let our guards down. If we are prepared well, the chances of a catastrophe will be less and we can come out of it with minimal losses.
Image source: educadormarcossv on pixabay
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