Encourage self-testing to protect children: Dr Suhail Naik
“Psychological, emotional and ophthalmological issues due to android phone addiction will be a major public health problem in coming years.
Post by on Tuesday, January 18, 2022
What we know so far, Omicron variant of Covid-19 appears to spread like wildfire and four times faster than the Delta variant, which has been attributed to the acute surge in cases across the world in the last several months. In India, the Covid-19 cases are also rising exponentially over past few weeks. It has left millions of people concerned for the safety of their loved ones, children in particular. In conversation with Rising Kashmir’s senior health correspondent, Mansoor Peer, senior pediatrician department of pediatrics GMC Srinagar, Dr Suhail Naik, talks about the ways to prevent children from getting infected and way forward.
Are children at risk of infection?
In India, the population of children up to 18 years of age is around 30 percent which falls in the pediatric group which means a major portion of the population comes under pediatric population. In every country, care of children is a major concern, especially during the pandemic situation.
For parents, children are also very sensitive. When the first Covid-19 wave started, people had poor information about the disease. There was anxiety, fear among people and the reason was that parents were apprehensive about the safety and security of children.
But the positive point was that in Covid-19 first or second wave, it did not affect children the way it affected elders due to many biological and natural factors.
In India, as well as in Jammu and Kashmir, even if children were affected, they had mild symptoms and their number was very less. The virus in the form of variants had affected children across all age groups and omicron is also infective to kids.
Notably, in India, 1,500 children died due to Covid-19, which is a little figure keeping in view the huge population. But that indicates children are also at risk to develop Covid-19 complications particularly to those who have underlying comorbidities.
During previous years, some children suffered multi-system inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C). Please explain it?
It is a post-Covid-19 condition and sometimes a serious condition that appears to be linked to past exposure to coronavirus.
Some of these children after recovering from the asymptomatic or symptomatic Covid-19 infection developed the MIS-C—a condition where body organs can become inflamed.
It was reported among the children, who were already affected by the Covid-19. But after two or three months, they developed this syndrome due to which few of them presented in shock and or few days unremitting fever and inflammation in more than 2 organ systems.
What are symptoms of omicron in case it affects children?
Omicron started in South Africa in November last year and spread across more than 150 countries in a short period of time.
As per medical experts, omicron predominantly affects the upper respiratory system. It has low lethality and fatality. It didn’t affect the lungs severely and that is why the majority of patients don’t witness fall in oxygen level.
But kids develop high-grade fever and sore throat for few days. That is why we call it thermometric virus instead of Oxymetric, as people have to use thermometer more than the Oximeter.
It is short illness. The fatality rate of omicron is less. Lung involvement is also less. But the rate of transmission is very high and it spreads like wildfire.
We are still in evolving stage, and it has the potential to kill patients with comorbidities. Therefore we should not lower our guard. During the Delta variant’s propagation, there was high need of oxygen rather many states faced oxygen crisis.
But as per studies and literature of omicron, it doesn’t affect lungs so much and therefore people don’t develop happy hypoxia.
What should be the response of health care workers at the times, when flu season is going?
For a long time, the number one cause of under-five mortality is respiratory tract infections. Whenever we receive a child with a respiratory condition, the first response is to access the severity of the illness and classify the disease.
After accessing severity, one should immediately go for a rapid antigen test to further classify respiratory illness into Covid or non-Covid condition.
Further people should understand that once their child have flu or sore throat symptoms, they should immediately go to a nearby health facility to do the RAT test which is available free of cost at their doorsteps.
But like vaccine hesitancy, people still hesitate to go for test. Testing is the best way to control this pandemic and address its short and long-term complications. I request people to go for self-testing whenever they develop flu-like symptoms.
If a child is affected how do you manage and treat it?
If a child has moderate or severe disease, we have a dedicated Covid-19 hospital, where we have professional doctors available and a well-equipped system to manage all cases. In case there is Covid negative respiratory illness, we manage him in our own hospital.
What are your suggestions to parents?
It is better not to allow children to move out unnecessarily. Avoid huge gatherings and avoid unnecessary travel and don't allow them to go to hot spots.
Vaccination is the only way to save yourself and your family from any kind of infection. I request people to go for vaccination. In the past, polio (a disabling and life-threatening disease caused by the poliovirus) was eradicated only due to the vaccination.
We should encourage vaccination and hesitancy should be avoided. People should get vaccinated very happily.
The pandemic has affected children as they remain indoors, any observation on that?
Children are the main amplifiers and transmitters for respiratory viruses. But in this pandemic, they weren’t the main transmitters or amplifiers of the virus. They got infected from adult family members, who were going outside the home for routine work.
As children are indoors largely, many of them have developed behavioral abnormalities and aggressive behavior. Many have developed android phone addiction and experience headaches and eyesight problems.
They have literally frustrated their parents. In the coming months, situation will be more worrisome. Psychological, emotional and ophthalmological issues due to android phone addiction will be a major public health problem in coming years.
The closure of schools and home confinement has affected behaviour and development of children. They have developed agitated behavior. Many children gained lot of weight due to eating of junk food, prolonged screen time and lack of exercise.
I advise parents to maintain a psychological balance with children and don’t stress them. It is important to cut the screen time, encouraging healthy diet and regular exercise.
What are your suggestions for parents as they couldn’t send children to schools?
Due to the pandemic, we are all locked inside our homes. It is indeed a tough time for all of us, including our kids. Although isolation, physical, and social distancing is the new normal, it has led to immense physical and psychological pressure on the kids.
Right from their academic calendar to annual examinations, everything has turned upside-down. Plus, the introduction of online classes and restricted contact with their buddies, relatives have left them in a tough situation.
It is time to give more attention and care to your children, the better they will find to sustain this stressful condition. Try to spend quality time with them, play with and help them with their studies and hobbies to make them feel better.
Creative an environment for them so that they stay away from negativities related to the pandemic. When their minds are into something creative and rewarding, they will be happy and relaxed.
Kids are used to a particular routine owing to their school life. However, during this global pandemic followed by lockdown, this routine is somewhat disrupted.
People should schedule a daily routine for kids. It will allow them to be disciplined. Make a structured routine for studies, games, physical activities, entertainment, meals as well as their sleep time. In this way, children will feel relaxed.
Will the third wave be more challenging for kids?
The third Covid-19 wave will affect adults and kids alike. The myth around children being affected in a greater degree of severity is not based on any scientific evidence. Naturally, children are less likely to develop severe illness due to Covid-19 than adults.
But as the pediatric population is still unvaccinated and are therefore susceptible to infection, we must stay hyper-alert to deal with any untoward situation. People are advised to take all precautions and strictly adhere to Covid-19 appreciate behavior.