How can you keep children safe in the Third Wave of COVID-19
We’ve lived through not one, but two major waves of peaking COVID-19 infections across India. While the first wave was sudden but mild, the second with variant mutations was perhaps the greatest collective tragedy India has suffered for a long time. Waves follow one after another and naturally, we should brace ourselves for a third wave of coronavirus infections in the near future. What’s most worrying is the impact this third wave may have on children, and parents are worried about how much kids will be affected, and want to learn how they can be kept safe.
Studies have found Covid-19 infections in children to be mostly asymptomatic or with mild flu-like symptoms like a fever, cold, cough, vomiting and diarrhoea. In some cases, children do suffer severe symptoms including difficulty breathing, drops in oxygen saturation (hypoxia), lethargy, and seizures that need intensive hospitalisation, after 2-3 weeks of infection
However, symptoms can be different and with new variants like delta, even younger people are getting severe infections, and without vaccination: nobody is safe. Have you heard of the multi-system inflammatory syndrome in children because of Covid-19? It is serious but treatable, and has been seen in children of all ages who got covid, from newborns to 21 year olds. Mis-C occurs in a very tiny percentage of children a few weeks after coronavirus and it manifests as a fever with rashes, red eyes, diarrhoea, vomiting, abdominal pain, lethargy and tiredness. Children with MIS can be easily treated if it is recognised early and treated appropriately. As children many times do not have any symptoms with covid infection, this syndrome could mean they actually had COVID before and in these cases covid spike antibodies are positive.
Therefore, any child who has a fever or is experiencing other symptoms should be taken to a paediatrician
Now we don’t know when the third wave hits us; but it will and that is why taking all necessary precautions that we’ve been taking already, need to continue. India’s poor vaccination record, and the fact that there is no under -18 vaccination available, children are the only unvaccinated group left and this will make them more susceptible to infection. This could also depend on herd immunity (percentage of people in a society that become immune to a disease) and people maintaining social distance, wearing masks and washing hands regularly. Doctors agree that while Covid-19 may not affect a particular age group of kids, those who have chronic conditions like heart disease, lung disease, obesity, diabetes type 1, kidney failure, may need hospital admission if they get infected.
Is it possible for children to face much more serious infections in the third wave?
Fortunately for us, in both the first and second wave, only a tiny percentage of kids got severe infections that required hospital admission. This pattern may remain the same in the third wave. Most children who have mild infections can be easily managed at home with tele-consultations with a doctor. A small percentage of kids have a recurring fever, rashes, and maybe red eyes. There could also be some abnormal blood tests two to six weeks after the Covid infection, called Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome (as explained above).
Keeping your kids healthy
You can keep your kids healthy and their immunity strong with good nutrition and regular physical activity.
Most young children do need to get vaccinated to protect themselves against other illnesses such as measles or chicken pox. It is crucial you make sure your kids do not miss these vaccinations and get them as soon as possible, and as safely as possible.
There is no telling when the covid crisis will finally be over and vaccination seems the only solution right now to prevent spread of corona again.
Keeping Kids Protected from Covid
Now remember, children have been confined and locked up at home for almost two years now, and they will certainly feel the need to step out, cause some trouble and potentially expose themselves to the virus. This can be avoided.
Our doctors suggest some practical ways in which children can be kept safe:
* As children live with their families, their exposure to the virus can be significantly reduced if adults in the house are fully vaccinated.
* Governments should keep ready paediatric ICU beds replete with ventilators, oxygen and other necessary equipment accoding to the calculated probable number of patients.
* States can increase the production of medicines needed for treating paediatric COVID-19 cases.
* The need is to start and expedite clinical trials for vaccination among children.
* Restrictions on social gatherings across the nation.
* Ensuring that Covid-restrictions continue.
* Schools will need to remain closed.
* Educate your kids using creative methods and illustrations on Covid protocols, good hygiene practices, and how the virus can spread.
* Monitor them and their health at home. Plan exercise, dance, yoga schedule daily.
* Ensure that they get enough healthy and nutritious home-cooked food, intake of fruits daily.
If you need help with your kids and coronavirus, our online consultations are always open and you can connect with Delhi’s best paediatric doctors at a time of your choosing. If anybody at home does test positive for covid-19, and you have kids at home, please consult with our expert paediatricians who will guide you through this period.
Dr. Syed Mustafa Hassan,
Senior Consultant & HOD
Paediatrics & Neonatology