The novel coronavirus is a new virus that was first described in Wuhan, China in December 2019. It can infect all age groups but mortality of COVID-19 is high in the elderly, age group more than 65 years of and also young children. A good thing in pediatrics is that case fatality (severity of disease) is less as compared to adults. Most of the cases of COVID-19 in children are mild disease like other viral infections. But there is a high probability, it can be fatal in children with underlying chronic diseases like heart disease, liver diseases, kidney diseases, malnutrition and children with immune deficiency. There is no definite treatment of COVID-19 and vaccination against this deadly virus to date. Here are some measures to reduce or prevent the risk of infection of this deadly virus.
Doctors may recommend home care if anyone in your family is-
- Diagnosed with COVID-19
- Was tested for COVID-19 and is awaiting their results
- Has flu-like symptoms (fever, cough, and sore throat)
- Even if any family member is sick, and they are unsure if they have COVID-19, they should stay home unless they need medical care. This will help prevent contagion.
As a parent, here are some precautions you can take for your child during the COVID-19 pandemic. Here are a few precautions parents and children can take to avoid infection:
- This is the best time to inculcate positive hygiene practices in your children. This includes washing hands thoroughly, using hand sanitizer, the importance of personal hygiene, avoiding any sort of social gathering, especially if they want to play with other children.
- You must teach your children the right way and right time to wash their hands. You can refer to the guidelines set by WHO; the guide will take you through the right way to wash and disinfect your hands, especially between your fingers and underneath your fingernails. You should also teach the child to wash their hands with a good soap before touching their face or eating.
- Wash hands frequently using soap and water for at least 20 seconds or frequently use alcohol-based hand rub. Wash hands especially after coughing, sneezing or touching objects like door handle which are likely to be touched by others as well.
- Educate your child to cover the mouth and nose with a tissue or flexed elbow while coughing and sneezing. Dispose the used tissue immediately and wash hands with soap and water or use alcohol-based hand rub. Do not touch any objects or face after coughing or sneezing.
- Establish a routine that is age-appropriate and can be followed easily. You can include play and reading time, and use them as learning opportunities for your kids. Don’t forget to come up with plans with your kids, wherever possible. Don’t forget to be flexible with your child’s activities, switch them up, and flip to a more active option if you feel that your child is getting agitated or restless.
- Clean the child’s toys’ at least once a day.
- Clean the floor and commonly touched objects at least once a day at home.
- Don’t allow your child to come in close contact with anyone who has a cold, fever or flu-like symptoms.
- Try to engage your child in indoor activities. Avoid outdoor activities as much possible but one can allow activities in the house premises provided the number of children is not more than 4 to 5. Children with fever, cough and running nose should not be allowed to meet others especially the elderly/grandparents.
- Don’t take children to crowded places. Keep them indoors as much as possible.
- Don’t forget to give a nutritious diet with plenty of water. Give citrus fruits (orange, lemon, grapefruit) and vegetables which are rich in vitamin C, vitamin D containing foods (cheese, egg yolks) and zinc-containing foods (legumes, lentils, beans, and nuts).
- Mother can continue breastfeeding if they develop COVID-19 disease but the mother should take due precaution to prevent transmission like use mask, washing hands before and after contact with the child.
- Seek medical care early if your child has a fever, cough or breathing difficulty.
- Have open conversations with your kid and encourage them to ask questions, along with expressing their feelings. You must remember that your child will have a different reaction to stress, so be patient and understanding. You can begin by inviting your child to talk about the issue that’s bothering them. Find about their knowledge of personal hygiene and the importance of washing their hands.
- Cyberspace and digital platforms are chockful of information, but as a parent, you need to filter out the data to what is appropriate for your kid. You have to discuss the internet with your children and make them understand why there are certain restrictions in place. Ensure that the information accessible to them is for their safety and knowledge.
- Stay in touch with the child’s education facility, this means staying in touch with your child’s teacher or school. As a parent, you need to stay informed, receive guidance, and ask questions wherever necessary. Community and parent groups are a great way to support each other, especially while homeschooling during this COVID crisis.
Dr. Mridul Chandra Das, Consultant Gastroenterology & Hepatology – Paediatric, Narayana Superspeciality Hospital, Gurugram