Child Care & COVID – 19: What can schools and parents do?
Dr Anuradha Gunasekharan, Specialist Pediatrician, Aster Clinic – Dubailand and Ras Al Khor, Dubai
All around the world, children are relatively less affected with COVID - 19 and they tend to be more of asymptomatic carriers. It would be for the benefit of adults in the school environment and vulnerable family members at home, that teachers and other support staff at school are recommended to get vaccinated. Having said that, more prudent approach will be strict adherence to the COVID preventive protocols like masks, hand washing, respiratory hygiene and physical distancing till the vaccine availability gets more streamlined.
COVID-19 VACCINATION – Pros & Cons
We now have anti-COVID vaccines in hand in a record time of 10 months into the pandemic. There has been absolutely no compromise in the safety of vaccines and there were no short-cuts in manufacturing. Keeping the prowling pandemic in mind, some stages of vaccine research were “dove-tailed” and “telescoped” to create an efficacious vaccine without major adverse effects. Minor side effects like injection site pain, fever, headache, etc. can easily be managed with simple medications and rest.
- Super senior citizens(>80years), persons with chronic health ailments, recent blood transfusions and those on immunosuppressive therapy need to consult their physicians before registering for vaccination.
Schools & children during pandemic
An important lesson from this pandemic is that schools are more than mere academic centers. They play a crucial role in the physical, psycho-social and emotional maturation of young minds apart from their cognitive development.
Schools give ample space to kids to interact with friends, remain physically active and develop a sense of familiarity. Virtual learning can never be a substitute for in-person schooling.
Hence, it is very important for the parents, teachers and school authorities to devise suitable plans to create a safe learning environment for children in a regular schooling set-up as early as possible.
Clinical studies are under process and we can expect COVID vaccines for children too, in next 3-6 months. Till then, COVID preventive protocols like hand washing, wearing face masks and social distancing have to be followed with all possible means.
Points to be kept in mind by parents
1. Right information: Know about the emergency helplines and services in your locality. To have a plan of what to do if you are sick, where and how to get treatment, know about support services, resources and also plan financially. This helps you manage the situation in a stronger, better and healthier way
- Consult /contact a health-care professional before any self-treatment for COVID-19
- Emotional health: It is natural to feel stressed and worried during a pandemic but taking care of emotions will help you tackle the disaster with a clear mind
- Physical health: Take care of your body with healthy well balanced meals, regular exercises and good quality sleep. Avoid alcohol, tobacco and other drugs for coping up with the stress
- Share your feeling, concerns or fears with a reliable friend or family member and building strong support systems by maintaining healthy relationships is essential during these times
- Take breaks: Do activities you enjoy the most. Meditate and practice breathing exercises to relax yourselves.
- Refrain from indulging too much in the news as it may be upsetting to hear or see images about the crisis repeatedly. Instead spend some quality time with family.
- Learn to seek help from others whenever it is needed. Seek professional advice from a doctor or counselor if
- Feelings of fear, anger, sadness, worry or frustration are unmanageable
- Difficulty in sleeping and loss of appetite
- Physical reactions like headaches, body pains/ skin rashes
- Worsening of chronic physical or mental health problems
- Taking care of yourself, your friends, family and society can be a stress reliever. Maintain social connections through phone calls/ video calls with your friends.
TAKING CARE OF CHILDREN DURING COVID-19
Children react to the pandemic in different ways:
- Infants and kids less than two years are crankier, clinging on to parents more than usual with excess stranger anxiety and poor sleep
- Pre-school kids are more frightened, new onset of bed wetting with toileting accidents in toilet trained kids and experience of excess temper tantrums
- School going kids feel sad/ afraid with trouble in concentrating
- Teenagers are afraid to leave home. They indulge in arguing with parents, siblings and elders as a result of difficulty in managing their own emotions during the pandemic.
- Children with special needs are worst affected in pandemic, as they have a poor control on their day-day activities, needing an extra re-assurance and support from parents and caregivers
What we can do to help our children in Covid-19
- Stay calm and reassure your children that you are there to keep them safe. Kids follow your actions, not your advice. Be an example to them by tackling the stress yourself in a more efficient way.
- Talk to them and encourage them to ask questions and answer their queries in more simple and age-appropriate ways.
- Parents, teachers and adults should work together in sharing the correct information to kids rather than spreading rumours about the pandemic. Rumours frighten the young minds and affect their mental health.
- Establish a routine for children even when their schools are closed. Make them more active by engaging them in fun filled physical activities. Parental control over web browsing, and to check on cyber-bullying is advised.
- Help them return to their routine activities in school as early as possible with effective safety measures
However, if you feel the need to consult a doctor, you may avail Aster’s tele-consultation services by booking an appointment at https://asterhospital.com/ or https://asterclinic.ae/
External reference: https://cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/children.html