It is common for the family and the community to be under stress when anything affects children. In the wake of the second wave of Covid outbreaks in our country, there are concerns in the community about several issues, including homestays, newborns, breastfeeding of Covid-infected mothers and vaccination of breastfeeding mothers. Covid is a relatively new type of virus that is still being studied and researched around the world.
At present, there are no specific guidelines for vaccinating people under the age of 18. Therefore, for those in this group, the only way to prevent Covid is through other forms of resistance. In this context, more awareness is needed on how to protect children from this serious pandemic. The second wave of Covid is characterized by a higher incidence of the disease in children than the first wave, and the virus is more deadly. Protecting children from this super-spread is an issue that needs to be taken seriously. Since most children now spend their time at home, the disease is most often transmitted by adults who interact with the community. Therefore, adults need to be careful not to infect children.
One important thing for adults to remember in this regard is to leave home only when necessary. Or if you go out, you must wear a double mask. Also, after returning home, make sure your hands are thoroughly cleaned with soap before engaging with your family members. Children should be allowed to interact only after their clothes are soaked in soapy water and washed. Practise using the mask indoors if possible. Try to avoid expressions of love like kissing your children etc.
Another important thing is to be careful not to let children play outside the house. Children of an older age need to be taught the need to wear masks, wash their hands with soap and keep their distance.
Covid symptoms in children
Symptoms include fever, cough, chills, fatigue, breathing difficulties and sore throat. Covid can also cause diarrhoea, vomiting, and red spots on the skin in children. Parents should ensure that children with these symptoms are given medical attention immediately.
When children are subjected to Covid examination
Nasal secretions need to be collected to detect the Covid virus. Therefore, young children are more likely to develop vomiting and other complications if tested immediately after feeding or weaning. Therefore it is better to collect the sample before the next meal or breastfeeding. For this, children should be held in the required manner as per the instructions of the health workers.
If the disease is confirmed in children
Children with mild symptoms can stay at home under the supervision of a health professional. Thus, older children should be advised to wear masks and wash their hands frequently. It is best to have only one person at home to take care of the children. In case of fever, medicines can be given as prescribed by the healthcare professional. They should be given plenty of water to prevent dehydration. ORS (Oral Rehydration Solution) and porridge water can be given. Be careful to avoid bakery items and fast food, and give your children only nutritious food.
Pay special attention to children who stay at home
Affected children who stay home sick need special monitoring. Buy a digital thermometer and keep track of body temperature every day. If you notice drowsiness or excessive crying in children, you should immediately notify the relevant health care provider. Children's breathing status should also be checked. It is common for babies under two months of age to inhale and exhale less than 60 times a minute.
The rate of spontaneous respiration is less than 50 times in those aged two months to one year, less than 40 times in children aged one to five years, and less than 30 times in children over five years of age. If you notice it is more than this, you should inform the health workers immediately. Also, if you notice that the bottom of the chest is getting hollow and the body is getting blue, seek medical attention immediately. A pulse oximeter can be used to monitor the level of oxygen in the blood. If the dose is less than 94, health workers should be notified immediately. You can also seek the services of expert doctors over the phone.
If mothers are affected by Covid
Mothers with small children can continue breastfeeding even if they are infected with the Covid virus. This will help boost the child's immunity. At the same time, there are some things to keep in mind while breastfeeding. Choose a well-ventilated and clean room for breastfeeding. Mothers should wear a double mask while breastfeeding and wash their hands thoroughly with soap before taking the baby. If secretion through sneezing or coughing is suspected, the breasts should be washed and cleansed. Also, make sure to wash your breasts with soap and water while bathing. Excessive anxiety in mothers can reduce breast milk, so try to keep your mind calm. If the mother is seriously ill, she should seek the help of other relatives to take care of the baby and bring the baby to the side or feed with extracted breast milk.
Children who are in quarantine due to contact should be given other vaccines only after the quarantine period. On the other hand, in children with Covid positive, other vaccines can be given after two weeks of negative. Never give up on these vaccines, as they will save our children from many other epidemics.
Countries like Canada have decided to vaccinate children between the ages of 12 and 15 years. Studies on the development of the vaccine for children from six months of age are ongoing. It is hoped that children in our country will also be vaccinated soon.
(The writer is a Pediatrician at Peravoor Govt. Taluk Hospital)