Article by: Dr Baldeep Singh, Pediatrician, Founder-Director of Ludhiana’s Deep Hospital.
The second wave of COVID-19 has seen a rise in infection rates amongst children. Some health experts think that children will be more susceptible to the third wave of COVID-19. This has left parents looking for information on how to protect themselves and their children from the anticipated threat.
According to an analysis done by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association, it shows that children accounted for roughly 15 percent of all newly reported COVID-19 cases across the US, till the first week of August. Approximately 94,000 child cases of COVID-19 have been recorded, a 31 percent increase over the roughly 72,000 cases reported a week earlier.
Hospitalization of children with COVID-19 infection has seen a surge in India as well during the second wave, this is mainly because family members have been infected and transmitted it to children. During a media briefing in June, Dr Randeep Guleria, Director, AIIMS-Delhi shared that, 60-70 percent of the children hospitalised due to COVID-19 have had co-morbidities, which underlines the importance of building a strong immune system and a healthy lifestyle.
In the last few weeks, India’s COVID-19 caseload has also improved, with the recovery rate currently standing at 97.45 percent. As active cases are reducing, certain states are gearing up to open schools and colleges. Schools in Punjab have already re-opened and Maharashtra will be opening them up for students from August 17. As schools re-open, parents need to be all the more cautious and prepared. In the meanwhile, parents need to curtail outdoor movement.
Reducing outdoor movement
Parents should limit moving out of the house unless it is really necessary. Encourage children to remain indoors, as they are as susceptible to the virus as adults. Being confined to our homes has made our daily routine mundane, taking a toll on the lives of children as well. Parents and caregivers can break the monotony by involving the children in household activities. These activities will also help them boost self-confidence, improve focus and will keep them physically active.
Protocols to follow:
- Avoid outsiders coming home
- Adhering to COVID-19 appropriate behaviour
- Wear a mask while stepping out
- Follow social distancing at all times in an outdoor setting
- Disinfect frequently touched surfaces and objects at home
- Avoid public functions, social gatherings, and group play
- Sanitise frequently
- Help the child take up a hobby
- Train the child’s mind through games and activities
Boosting immunity with nutrition
Studies have proven that people who are immunocompromised or have a weakened immunity are more prone to being infected with COVID-19. The best defence against it is to build a strong immune system. To boost immunity, a nutritious and active lifestyle is paramount. Foods rich in fibre, protein, vitamins, and minerals can help boost immunity. Seasonal fruits and vegetables are a good source of vitamins, minerals, and support digestion, metabolism, and overall wellness. It eventually helps to ward off seasonal diseases and remain active.
The consumption of ice-creams, carbonated beverages, and junk food should be limited as they have little to zero nutritional value. Parents need to take the initiative to guide their children imbibing a healthy and balanced diet.
Certain tips to keep in mind while planning your child’s meal:
- Have home-cooked food
- Avoid foods high in sugar, salt, oils, and trans fat
- Include fresh fruits and vegetables in your child’s diet
- Avoid junk food or limit the consumption of junk food
- Add milk-based products and food fortified with Vitamin-D
- Keeping them hydrated by asking them to drink eight glasses of water a day
- Exposure to good sunlight
Prioritise mental health
The current crisis has dealt a devastating blow to mental well-being. It has impacted adults – with a harder impact on children and youth. With the schools and colleges shut for months on end, children have been confined to their homes and have not been able to interact, play or mingle with friends and peers. The COVID-19 pandemic has also brought about grief, fear, uncertainty, social isolation, increased screen time, and parental fatigue, harming the mental well-being of children.
Parents and caregivers need to communicate with children to know about their physical health as well as their mental well-being and try to alleviate their anxiety and stress as much as possible.
Points to consider for the mental well-being of children/adolescents:
- Exercise health communication with children/adolescents
- Encourage children to express their views
- Try and create a positive environment at all times
- Encourage children to take up some hobbies
As children gear up to return to schools with the looming threat of the COVID-19 third wave, parents need to be cautious and alert. Parents should adhere to COVID-19 protocols at all times and encourage their children to always wear a mask, follow social distancing, and sanitise frequently. As and when vaccines are made available for children and adolescents, they should be vaccinated.