- Children and adolescents tend to have mild infection compared to adults
- Most children tend to have an asymptomatic infection: Expert
- Precautionary measures can be adopted as part of the daily routine
New Delhi: As the world marks one year of dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, people across the globe are majorly aware of the COVID symptoms faced by adults. These common symptoms include cough, headache, fever, chills. COVID-19 among children may be rare, but they too can contract the infection. World Health Organisation’s COVID-19 Technical Lead Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, explains how the virus can impact children.
When it comes to the symptoms of COVID-19 in children, many people wonder if children face the same symptoms as adults or if they are different, especially for the very young kids. Dr Maria explains,
There are different types of disease presentation based on the age of the person who is infected by this virus. Luckily, children and adolescents tend to have the more mild disease compared to adults. Most people who are infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus have respiratory symptoms. They start to feel a little bit unwell, they will have a fever, they may have a cough or a sore throat or sneeze; in some individuals, they may have gastrointestinal symptoms. Others may lose the sense of smell or the sense of taste. Especially in the youngest children, they tend to be milder, which means they don’t have as many symptoms as adults do. Some children may have gastrointestinal symptoms like diarrhoea or vomiting, but they tend to be milder. And even most children tend to have an asymptomatic infection, which means they don’t have any symptoms at all.
Talking about the various COVID-19 mutations and variants, Dr Maria says that the variants were expected, but does not necessarily mean that these are all causes of concern. She further explained the ‘variants of concern’,
Virus variants mean changes in the virus and we are detecting changes in the SARS-CoV-2 virus over time, this is expected. Many of these changes do not have any impact on the virus in terms of its ability to transmit or the disease that it causes. But some variants we call “variants of concern” and these viruses need more study. And scientists are looking at the way the virus transmits the disease that it causes, and luckily so far, these variants do not tend to cause more severe disease across any age group. The disease presentation looks the same and the severity looks the same as the other SARS-CoV-2 viruses circulating.
She says that in the virus variant that was identified in the United Kingdom, they noticed an increase in transmissibility across all age groups. This includes increased transmission among younger children as well. Dr Maria added,
In the area where this virus variant was circulating, schools happened to have been open. And the virus that was circulating, also circulated among the students and the faculties in those schools that were open. So, there’s much study that’s still underway with these virus variants, but the studies in the United Kingdom, for example, do not indicate that the virus specifically targets young children, meaning that it’s not infecting children more than would be likely of other viruses that are circulating in the area.
Dr Maria says that the best way to keep children safe is about prevention. We want to prevent as many infections as we possibly can all over the world, she says. Talking about some precautionary measures that can be adopted as part of daily routine and habit for children, she says,
The comprehensive package of interventions that you hear us talk about all the time applies to children as well. Making sure children have clean hands and they wash their hands appropriately with soap and water and sing the songs so that they get enough bubbles and they make sure that those hands are really clean. Or use an alcohol-based rub. Make sure that they practice respiratory etiquette, where they sneeze into their elbow. Even my littlest one who’s two years old now, will cough and sneeze into his elbow. But these are good habits to be forming for children as they get older. Making sure that if they’re age-appropriate and they follow the local guide to wear a mask appropriately. With clean hands, make sure that the mask is put on over your ears, covers their nose and their mouth and that the children don’t touch the outside of their masks. Make sure that they have clean hands. And then when they take it off, to clean their hands as well.
She also urges parents to make sure that they, as parents talk to the kids about the situations and answer their questions since there is a lot of confusing information out there and it’s scary.
Find the time to talk to them and answer their questions and alleviate their fear, and make sure that they get good information from you. And probably the most important thing that everybody can do is physical distancing. Outside of your immediate family, make sure that you keep your distance from others. That’s the best way to prevent the spread of SARS-CoV-2, Dr Maria reiterates.
NDTV – Dettol Banega Swasth India campaign is an extension of the five-year-old Banega Swachh India initiative helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. It aims to spread awareness about critical health issues facing the country. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign highlights the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children to prevent maternal and child mortality, fight malnutrition, stunting, wasting, anaemia and disease prevention through vaccines. Importance of programmes like Public Distribution System (PDS), Mid-day Meal Scheme, POSHAN Abhiyan and the role of Aganwadis and ASHA workers are also covered. Only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and become a Swasth or healthy India. The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene.