Apart from creating the largest disruption of education systems in history and affecting nearly 1.6 billion students in more than 190 countries, Covid-19-related measures are having a profound effect on children’s health and well-being and for some, the impact will be lifelong. The World Health Organisation highlighted that children and adolescents of all ages and in all countries are seriously suffering from the consequences of the pandemic while the United Nations Children’s Fund too alerted that they risk being among its biggest victims.
In its data, UNICEF claimed, “All children, of all ages, and in all countries, are being affected, in particular by the socio-economic impacts and, in some cases, by mitigation measures that may inadvertently do more harm than good.” The data added, “Moreover, the harmful effects of this pandemic will not be distributed equally. They are expected to be most damaging for children in the poorest countries, and in the poorest neighbourhoods, and for those in already disadvantaged or vulnerable situations.”
On the other hand, the WHO comforted that SARS-CoV-2 infections among children and adolescents cause less severe illness and fewer deaths compared to adults. However, if children with mild or no symptoms transmit the disease, they may act as drivers of transmission within their communities.
With no vaccines planned for children and a rising trend of them being infected in the past two months, the only solution seems to be stricter surveillance, say doctors. Dr Rachna Sharma, Senior Consultant at Paediatric Intensive Care and Pulmonology at BLK-MAX Super Speciality Hospital in Delhi, listed some useful tips that can be followed to manage Covid-19 in children and their caregivers, to ensure better recovery while preventing the spread of Covid-19.
Guidelines for Covid-19 positive children:
1. Keep the child in well-ventilated room with an attached toilet
2. Keep the child away from elderly, pregnant women, other children and persons with co-morbidities.
3. Assign a dedicated caregiver.
4. Keep them well hydrated.
5. Newborns can be breastfed after the mother observes hand hygiene routine and wears mask.
6. If required, Covid-19 positive mother can give expressed milk to the child via the caregiver.
7. No social gatherings or visitors should be allowed in the house.
8. Dedicated linen and eating utensils should be used for the child and kept separately
Guidelines for care givers:
1. Wear surgical masks at all times and change every 6-8 hours.
2. Avoid direct contact with the body fluid of the infected child – oral or respiratory secretions and stool.
3. Use disposable gloves and a mask to handle soiled linen or body fluids.
4. Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces such as toilet or furniture in the room which are on a daily basis. Clean using household bleach or 1% hypochlorite.
5. Clean the patient’s clothes, linen, and towels, by using a regular detergent in hot water or a machine wash at 60-90°C.
Hand hygiene guidelines:
1. Diligently follow hand hygiene measures.
2. Practice hand hygiene before and after removal of gloves and mask.
3. Clean visibly dirty hands with soap and water.
4. Use alcohol-based hand rub frequently.
5. Use disposable paper towels for hand drying. Alternatively use clean cloth towels. Replace frequently.
6. Dispose gloves, masks, and other waste in a waste bin with lid.