In the pandemic, especially in the third wave, parents are worried about the health and well-being of their children. As cases pertaining to the Omicron variant rise, there is a need to understand how kids can be kept safe. Dr Sreenath Manikanti, senior consultant neonatologist at Kauvery Hospital, Electronic City, Bangalore says the new variant Omicron has been found to be highly transmissible, its doubling time is 1.5-3 days, as compared to 5 days with Delta variant.
“Does it make Omicron more dangerous than the Delta variant? No, overall Omicron has been found to be a milder variant and majority of the people who are affected in India have reported milder disease. It’s spreading rapidly across many states. So far it’s known to cause mild to moderate illnesses,” he says.
According to the doctor, children — largely unvaccinated in India — are susceptible to getting the disease. “More children are getting affected in the third wave, compared to the first and second waves. Majority of affected children are reported to be having mild to moderate symptoms. The affected children can be super-spreaders though, spreading it to other children with weaker immunity, unimmunised or partially immunised adults, elderly population, etc. Some of them can get very sick.”
Dr Manikanti lists the following measures:
1. Protection by vaccination: Currently, no vaccines are approved for children up to 15 years in India. Best way to protect them is to make sure all adults and children above 15 years in the family and the vicinity are fully-vaccinated. This should include all maids, drivers, security, teachers, etc.
2. Covid-appropriate behaviour: Following Covid-appropriate behaviour is the best way in ensuring protection of your child. Make sure children (above 2 years) wear masks when stepping out, follow social distancing and hand hygiene.
3. Prevent spread in the family: As Omicron is highly contagious, if one family member is affected it’s likely to quickly spread. Isolate anyone with even mild symptoms. If a child is showing symptoms, isolate them from other children and elderly. Get the affected person tested. Everyone above the age of 2 years must be encouraged to wear a mask at home.
4. Seek advice from a pediatrician: Take precautions while visiting a hospital or clinic. Take an online consultation if it’s not safe to step out.
5. Protection from breastfeeding: Breastfeed infants up to 2 years of age. Breastfeeding offers protection against Covid as it passes protective antibodies from the mother to the infant. Even Covid-positive mothers are advised to breastfeed their infants taking adequate precautions.
7. Prevent vector-borne, water-borne diseases: Ensure safe water and hygienic food. Take measures to prevent mosquito or insect bites.
8. Avoid crowded places, events and public places.
9. Ensure good hydration and a balanced diet containing a variety of fruits and vegetables.
10. Ensure physical activity and engage your child in play and avoid excessive screen time.
11. Get sun exposure daily for at least 20-30 minutes.
12. Clean the child’s toys at least once daily with soap and water or sanitizer spray.
13. Clean the floor and other commonly-touched surfaces regularly.
“Children with co-morbidities are at higher risk of moderate-to-severe disease. They may also require hospitalisation. Continue to give regular medications and take extra precautions to prevent Covid in these children,” the doctor concludes.