The COVID pandemic has been extremely tough for children who have been forced to cope up with unprecedented changes, be it online education in confined places or restricted exposure to friends and family. But the new strain has made it even tougher as it is reportedly also affecting children. As such, what precautionary measures can one take and what is the level of severity among children? Dr Gitali Bhagawati, consultant and head, department of microbiology and infection control, Dharamshila Narayana Superspeciality Hospital shares some insights.
With time, the virus is mutating and different variants are breaking out. Also, COVID is not merely a respiratory disease; many infected people are experiencing a variety of symptoms and discomforts. COVID potentially affects the organs and blood vessels of a patient, and the same mechanism can manifest in multiple symptoms. Apart from diverse symptoms, many people are also reporting neurological issues, BP, leg pain, body ache, fatigue etc. even months after recovery, which did not even prevail before infection. Such is the larger and longer effect of this infection.
Children more at the risk of infection but not severity
As far as children are concerned, after a long time they are coming out of their houses, many of them are getting regular with school and other outdoor activities; hence more chances of getting an infection are there. But at the same time, among children, while the second wave is surely spreading faster lesser cases of severity are being witnessed. “But in long-term what physical conditions can occur, it cannot be said yet. As this virus is entirely new for us, research and studies are taking place across the world. Hence precautionary measures are the key,” said Dr Bhagawati.
Symptoms to be cautious about
As mentioned, COVID symptoms are diverse because of its mutation. Apart from sore throat, high to low-grade fever, gastrointestinal symptoms (mainly diarrhoea), neurological issues etc. people are experiencing dry mouth (xerostomia), COVID tongue and ulcer because of non-salivation. Children may also suffer stuffy or running nose and loss of appetite.
Never ignore any symptoms in your children; also keep an eye out for any discomfort your child may experience, because headache, unnecessary fatigue are also not that common but noticeable symptoms.
Challenges and how to overcome them
*Home isolation is best for children. Wearing masks, social distancing, repeated hand washing are some of the precautionary measures, but managing COVID appropriate behaviour is quite challenging among children.
*Another challenge is COVID testing. Children may not allow or feel uncomfortable while taking oropharyngeal and nasopharyngeal swabs which results in Negative COVID RT-PCR. However, it doesn’t mean that children are really negative for COVID. They can act as super spreader of this virus. So, if children are affected, they should be ideally kept away from elderly people, or reverse isolation can be done.
*As guardians, we need to be more cautious about our children; the challenge of giving them a healthy environment to develop and learn is bigger than ever. Family members should get vaccinated as per government guidelines. Teachers at schools and family members at home should communicate and ensure precautionary measures at every level.
*Although Covid vaccine is not allowed for children yet, seasonal influenza vaccine can be given to them so that they can gain immunisation against the seasonal influenza virus.
*Keep their intake of vitamin B complex, vitamin C, D, calcium, zinc etc. high. Also, inspire them to take plenty of water and lead a healthy life, said Dr Bhagawati.
*Parents also need to follow the same rules they impose on children with the objective of good health instead of just ordering them. The act of ordering a child to eat green vegetables will go futile when adults at home are enjoying fast food. Parents need to be more active and develop more connections with children.