Dos & don’ts of managing COVID19 infection among children returning to school

A : Aerial View

Dr Jesal Sheth

The year 2021 brought new hope of life getting back to normal. The first step towards this was the launch of the vaccination drive and the announcement of schools slowly opening doors to children. However, as much as this news brings joy, it is important for parents and teachers to understand the dos & don’ts of managing COVID19 infection amongst children. Weighing the risks and benefits of in-person schooling for children may mean different levels of social distancing based on a child’s age and developmental stage, which schools and parents must teach kids.

While we all know that there is still some time before the vaccine becomes available to children, parents, teachers and school authorities will need to be doubly careful as they ensure the safety of children in the company of their friends. COVID19 infection among children is like any other viral illness. We need to understand that the virus reacts and creates leads to different responses in different children. Every child does not become sick, and every child does not need hospitalisation. Therefore, close monitoring at home is important.

SYMPTOMS OF COVID19 INFECTION IN CHILDREN: Many children develop symptoms of respiratory or gastrointestinal distress like fever, cough, cold, throat pain, sever body ache, loss of appetite, abdominal pain, and weakness.

IF YOUR CHILD CONTRACTS THE VIRUS, TAKE APPROPRIATE STEPS: 

  • Develop a plan to protect the family and household members who are at risk of severe illness
  • Make sure that your emergency contact information and school pickup & drop-off information is updated
  • If that list includes anyone who is at risk of illness, consider adding an alternate contact
  • Find out how your school will communicate with families when a positive case or exposure to someone with COVID-19 happens, and how they plan to maintain student privacy
  • Monitor your kids regularly

Effective HOME MONITORING: Children should be monitored at home. Their temperature, pulse rate, oxygen levels and urine colour need to be checked every 4-6 hours. If the child is active between two fever episodes, taking enough oral liquids and passing clear urine, and if their blood O2 levels are more than 95%, then the child can be kept at home. Periodic teleconsultations with your Paediatrician can help parents be more vigilant to warning signs. Speak to your doctor if:

  • Persistent high-grade fever exists
  • If there are breathing difficulties
  • Finger pulse oximeter reads less than 95%
  • If the child is dull and weak
  • If there is dark coloured urine or less urine
  • Irritable or confusion among kids
  • If the child is sweating a lot and has unusual behaviour
  • If the child has insufficient oral intake is poor
  • And if there are persistent vomiting and loose motions

Such children should be immediately brought to COVID19 Emergency Room of your nearest hospital and should be physically assessed, and hospitalised if required. Timely action was taken by parents and teachers (if the child is in school) can help save the child’s life.

(Dr Jesal Sheth is Senior Consultant Paediatrician, Fortis Hospital, Mulund.)

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