Ramp up paediatric services before third wave: Docs

Ramp up paediatric services before third wave hits: Docs

They also offer guidelines to keep children safe

The past year saw about 2.3 lakh children, below 18 years of age, being infected by Covid-19, in Bengaluru. DH Photo by S K Dinesh.

The high-level committee, headed by cardiologist Dr Devi Shetty, constituted to prepare for a possible third wave of Covid-19 infections, suggests about 50,000 children in the age group of zero to 18 years could be affected at the peak, in Bengaluru. The panel also suggested for paediatric services in the city to be ramped up to efficiently deal with a possible third wave.

The current pandemic has not spared anybody, including children. Data released by the state government recently shows, 2.3 lakh children (below 18 years of age) being infected by Covid-19, in Bengaluru alone, in the last one year. Of which 51 children died.

Shashikala Jolle, women and child welfare minister, who released the data after a review meeting to deliberate on the measures to tackle the third wave of infections and its possible effect on children, said Bengaluru recorded these numbers from March 2020 to 2021. She said that more numbers would have been infected in April and May when the second wave hit the city.

As per official data from the health department, roughly five per cent of all new Covid-19 cases in Bengaluru, since May 15 are pre-teens (aged zero to nine year). “There has been a slight increase by two per cent, compared to the cases among children in the age group zero to nine years between March and June,” an official told Metrolife.

Dr Preeti M Galagali, executive committee member, Indian Academy of Paediatrics, believes one of the reasons for the increase in cases among children may be due to an influx of multi-inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C). “This has been a recurring trend among pre-teens and adolescents in the last couple of months. There have been some MIS-C cases where children had not previously been diagnosed with Covid, but were identified as having been Covid-19 positive by antibody tests. Such cases also add to Covid numbers,” he said.

The Devi Shetty panel also pointed out that there might not be enough paediatricians and trained healthcare professionals to provide treatment incase of increased cases among children. It recommends skill-enhancing and training modules for all healthcare workers to deal with the possible increase in cases among children.

Dr Galagali is in agreement, “All doctors, nurses and healthcare workers need to learn the basics of paediatrics care for triaging. Now would be the perfect time to start training, if we want to be prepared for if and when the third wave strikes the city. With a majority of Covid infected kids being asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic, can be treated by general doctors while paediatricians can focus on the more severe cases,” she says.

She said ICU care is an even tougher situation when dealing with kids. She urges the health department to provide sufficient neonatal ICUs in the city.

Better safe than sorry

Dr H Paramesh, senior pulmonologist and World Health Organisation (WHO) health advisor, stresses on the importance of physical exercise among children to help better their immunity.

“WHO has recommended an hour of skeletal muscle exercise for all children. Yoga and Pranayama will benefit youngsters a lot,” he says

While an exercise routine might not guarantee protection against Covid-19, it will help with quick recovery, advises Dr Jagadish Chinnappa, senior paediatric surgeon. “They should do yoga or any other kind of exercise every day for at least half an hour. If they had been working out for the last two to three years, they would have developed some immunity by now,” he adds.

Dr Jagadish also stresses on the problem of obesity among children,- a problem the city is currently facing. “Since the emergence of the pandemic, more children have gained overweight and have become obese because of the lack of physical activity. He said that prolonged use of electronic gadgets, wrong food habits, and lack of social interaction had taken a toll on their physical and mental health,” he adds.

About the best nutritious diet for children to deal with this problem, he says, “For vegetarians, fresh fruits, green leafy vegetables, and nuts are best to consume. Children must stop buying french fries, chaats, noodles, buns, bread, ice-creams, and other junk foods from outside as they are rich in salt, sugar, and fat with zero nutrient value. For non-vegetarians, meat can be consumed weekly once or twice.” Dr Paramesh also suggests some simple tasks to deal check oxygen levels among children. “Elder adolescents can test their lung capacity by holding their breath for 25 to 30 seconds. Alternatively, they can go for a six-minute brisk walk and compare pulse oximeter readings before and after the walk,” he says.

He added that if the difference in the oximeter reading was more than five percent, a doctor’s consultation was necessary. 

Common symptoms of Covid-19 among kids

Fever, headache, sore throat, body pain, dry cough, weakness or loss of appetite, pain in cheeks or eyes and loose stools.

Doctor’s guide for parents and children

- Do not administer antibiotics such as Erythromycin to children for a slight cough or fever without the doctor’s guidance.

- Ensure that your child drinks six to eight glasses of water in a day, gargles with warm water daily, bathes twice a day, and sleeps for seven to eight hours during the night.

- Getting vitamin D everyday is essential. Allow kids to sit or play in the sunlight for half an hour daily.

- All devices including mobile phones, joysticks, computers, keyboards, etc should be sanitised twice a day.

- Avoid talk about the pandemic in front of your children as this leads to anxiety. Create a jovial ambiance at home.

- Double masks and hand sanitisation are a must for children before stepping out of the home. Keep them away from crowds.

- Members of the family, including parents should get vaccinated as early as possible. Children can be inoculated with any vaccine upon approval from the government.

Everyday diet for kids

Fresh fruits, dry fruits, green leafy vegetables, and nuts.

A glass of milk (100ml)

A portion of oiled pulses such
as channa, green gram, rajma, and green peas.

Two eggs

(Avoid junk foods)

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