CHILDREN get sick often — and naturally so, they are like walking germ factories, often sticking the dirtiest objects that they can find in their mouths. On top of the regular health challenges that children often experience, there is now fear of them contracting COVID-19 as the virus continues to spread.
And while paediatrician Dr Anona Griffith says that medical experts have said that children have been found to be infected the least and have milder symptoms, she reasons that it is natural that any sign of illness, especially respiratory (a complication of the coronavirus) will trigger anxiety among parents and caregivers.
With some paediatricians limiting office hours, what should parents do in the event that their children become ill during the COVID-19 outbreak?
“The first recommendation would be to obey the instructions given by the Ministry of Health and Wellness. It is for the benefit of all. If symptoms occur, pay attention to what is happening and don't become clouded by COVID-19 only,” Dr Griffith said.
"In most instances, chances are that children will present with symptoms of a common cold which include runny nose, occasional cough and intermittent fever. However, in cases where children have symptoms such as a persistent fever, sore throat, red, watery eyes, muscle pain and fatigue, these may be indicative of other viral illnesses, of which COVID 19 may be one. You therefore want to pay close attention to how these symptoms progress."
She said if you notice one or a few of these symptoms, it is still important that you stay calm. Whether you are dealing with COVID-19 or the flu, she says that you should remember that you have control over the ability of the virus to spread.
“Remember, COVID 19 has a particular history attached to its spread. These include the history of travel, contact with someone who had travelled, contact with a known positive person...” Dr Griffith explains.
She said if you notice symptoms, you should do the following:
•Document symptoms as they develop, along with a timeline. Many children will not be able to verbalise their problems, so you will need to be extra vigilant.
•Is there a runny nose, cough? If baby feels warm, what is the temperature? Get a thermometer and check the temperature while monitoring the child. Know how to read it. A temperature above 38°C or 100°F is a fever. Treat the fever with over-the-counter medicines such as paracetamol at the appropriate dose. Do not administer ibuprofen or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
•Call your paediatrician if you are concerned or if fever persists more than 24 hours with worsening of symptoms. If you are unable to speak directly with your doctor, call the office if you think you need to be seen, outlining the problem truthfully so that you can be properly advised and guided accordingly whilst minimising risk to your child and others.
•Try setting up a virtual consultation with your doctor if he or she is available on a telemedicine platform, for example.
• Keep your child hydrated. So encourage drinking water and fresh juices to allow for vitamins and minerals — not boxed counterparts. Also, limit packaged and processed snacks while encouraging fresh fruits and vegetables. Now that most people are home, this will be a good time to increase the provision of healthy, home-cooked options.
•If the child is congested, you may use saline drops and a humidifier to help with keeping the airways moist. Encourage your child to get plenty of rest because this will help with his or her recovery.
•Limit visitors to your home and have a routine for sanitising for everyone who enters your home.
•Wash hands, wash hands, wash hands! And remove outer clothing before coming in contact with your child.
•Monitor for worsening of symptoms or progression of illness. For example, decreased appetite and refusal of liquids with signs of dehydration such as dry lips and decreased passage of urine.
•If fever persists and remains high even after giving the recommended doses of anti-fever medication at the required times, and if the child seems to be having difficulty breathing, take the child to your recommended medical facility for evaluation.
The building blocks for prevention of COVID-19 or any infection for that matter, apply more so for children. Therefore:
•Teach the child to cover their nose and mouth with a tissue or other disposable material when coughing or sneezing. It must be discarded immediately after use.
For those who cannot do it for themselves, the caregiver should do it.
•Teach the child the proper way to wash hands.
•Teach the child not to touch their eyes, mouth or nose and avoid sucking of fingers, kissing, sharing of straws, cups and eating utensils.
•Supervise bathroom visits with proper hand washing, preferably with soap and running water and not wipes.
• Teach social distancing —you can't isolate them so to speak, but teach by example.
•Avoid hugging. Teach your child other methods of greeting in game form such as touching elbows or using their feet.
•Sanitise common contact areas to reduce the spread of the virus such the door knobs, remotes, gadgets, etc.