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Tuesday, June 15, 2021

What the new Covid-19 variants mean for parents and kids

In the second wave many children are contracting Covid and in fact, the number of consultations with paediatricians this year is more than it was in the first wave.

By: Parenting Desk | New Delhi |
Updated: June 3, 2021 3:22:49 pm
Covid in children

By Dr Vikas Satwik

With the second wave hitting India with full force and impacting the people in a drastic manner we need to know what is ahead of us. In the past few weeks, health specialists and researchers have found many new mutants of the Covid-19 virus. There is a sharp rise in cases in the second wave in India. The rise of the second wave of Covid is making parents anxious and they are trying to safeguard their kids as much as possible.

Children are at equal or higher risk this time compared to the first wave of Covid. The new mutant in India was tagged as a ‘variant of concern’ (VOC) by the World Health Organisation. With the emergence of new strains so frequently, fresh facts about COVID-19 are being uncovered every day.

A virus multiplies by copying the genetic composition repeatedly. However, these copies are not always ditto to the original virus. Each of these imperfect or different copies of the original virus is known as a variant of the initial virus. Generally, the mutation in the virus does not alter the functioning of the virus, though it does come out to be stronger or weaker than the originally known virus. Some mutations can prove to be extremely beneficial for the virus. If the multiplying is not kept in check it can develop into becoming more resistant to healthy immune systems. However, a new variant does not always mean that it is a more harmful variant than others.

In the second wave many children are contracting Covid and in fact, the number of consultations with paediatricians this year is more than it was in the first wave. As of May 18, 2021, approximately 40,000 children have contracted Covid-19. Also, there is no such thing as immune boosters. Immunity is dependent on balanced and adequate nutrition. The deficiency of certain vitamins predisposes a body to weak immunity. Hence, vitamin supplements are prescribed to set the deficiency right. Multivitamin syrups are not immunity boosters.

In India, along with the new variants has come a petrifying fungus called ‘Black Fungus’. Many hospitals in India have reportedly seen the Mucormycosis or Black Fungus latching itself to COVID patients or newly recovered patients. This fungal infection is extremely strong and disturbing. The particles of the fungal infection are present in the environment (airborne) and if one breathes this air in, they can catch this petrifying fungal infection. This attacks the people who have lower immunity like diabetes or lowered by rampant steroid use or in patients just recovered from COVID who have damaged respiratory tract.

What is MIS-C?

MIS-C stands for Multi-Inflammatory System Condition and this is a new kind of Kawasaki disease. Some symptoms of MIS-C are significant abdominal pain, diarrhoea, not eating well, irritability, and inflammation of the skin and around the eyes. One should not take this lightly and consult a paediatrician as soon as you see any of the symptoms.

Will the third wave impact children more?

There is no current evidence that the third wave will impact children any more than it already has. All India Institutes of Medical Sciences recently mentioned that there is no indication that children will be severely or more affected in the third wave of Covid-19.

Possibility of vaccination

Unfortunately, the Covid vaccine is not available for children under the age of 18. The reason is that doctors do not know how the child’s body will react to the vaccine. However, there is no need to panic. Doctors and researchers have started studying the reaction of the vaccine on younger kids and hopefully, the vaccine will be safe and available later in the year for the younger population.

How to protect your child?

Parents need to keep in mind that to protect their child they need to be very wary of following the safety precautions. To keep themselves and their children safe from Covid, parents can follow the general safety protocols put in place by the government.

  • Parents must see to it that the children are washing their hands whenever they touch any dirty item or surface.

  • Keep tissue papers handy so the child always sneezes/coughs into it. The tissue paper needs to be instantly disposed of in a dustbin.

  • Parents should encourage their children to eat more healthy food and increase their intake of greens/proteins.

  • Wear a mask and encourage your child (above the age of 3 years) to wear one as well. Do not put a mask or any kind of face shield on a newborn baby as it might cause suffocation and irritation.

  • Exercising is also vital for both the parent and child and it helps one to clear their mind.

  • If suspected with Covid, parents must figure out logistics and instantly go into isolation.

  • Double-masking should be followed.

  • If a lactating mother is infected, she can continue to breastfeed but wear double masks and practice strict hand hygiene.

  • Parents should get their toddlers and children up to date with all their vaccinations, as these will help in reducing the chances of the children getting infected.

  • The most important is to get vaccinated as soon as one gets a slot as that decreases the chances of that person contracting the virus.

Every time the virus is prevented from spreading from one person to another, it is also barred from mutating and creating mayhem for the population.

(The writer is Consultant Neonatologist & Paediatrician, Motherhood Hospital, Bangalore)

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