By Dr Ravi Kiran
Senior Consultant – Paediatrics & Neonatology, Sakra World Hospital
School closures, sports games and isolation at homes due to the lockdown has resulted in anxiety among children. They may not be as susceptible to the virus like others but are vulnerable to so many of the secondary impacts. As the number of Covid-19 patients under 14 years have increased over the last week, the Karnataka government has announced private hospitals to set up Paediatric/Neonatal Intensive Care Units (PNICUs). In Karnataka, currently, infected children are being treated in normal ICUs.
Why must we augment our facilities to take care of paediatric patients?
Currently, the majority of the hospitals are not prepared to take care of pregnant women and new-borns. Even though the course of treatment for COVID-19 is the same for both adult and paediatric patients, children should be provided with additional care as they are more prone to infections.
Despite the degree of infection being less among children and the current cases being treated efficiently, there is a fear that if the number increases, the existing ICU facilities would not be able to accommodate them. Hence, it is important to have PNICUs with adequate PPE facility. With such a facility, the hospital will be able to take care of unstable critical children and those in need of immediate medical care and attention.
How do these children get infected and why is it important to monitor them?
Most paediatric patients’ cases do not have travelling history. The virus is transmitted from their infected family member or acquaintance. Therefore, it is crucial for parents/caretakers to teach children about the concept of physical distancing. Parents need to take extra caution as practising physical distancing with children is practically tough.
One can follow the below listed guidelines to keep their children safe:
- Instruct children to wash their hands properly and disinfect their hands frequently with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Disinfect the playroom and other rooms in the house as much as possible.
- Monitor your children and keep them under supervision. Do not let them touch their eyes, nose and mouth with dirty hands. Make them inculcate these habits as the duration of this pandemic is unpredictable.
- Give them nutritious food to build up their immune system. Wash the vegetables, fruits thoroughly before cooking.
- Avoid visiting crowded public places and do not let them come in close contact with people who exhibit symptoms of influenza-like illness
- Avoid addition to mobiles in this stay @ home period. Encourage cognitive board games, jigsaws, simple scientific experiments at home.
Parents and caretakers should educate the children about the virus and the different modes of transmission. Read the advisories and protocols issued by the World Health Organization and Nation/State Health Ministries for safety. The Indian Council of Medical Research advises mothers taking care of new-borns to wash hands thoroughly before touching the baby and wear a mask, to minimize the chances of passing on the infection. Do discuss with your doctor or clinical maternity team for breastfeeding purposes.