Heightened COVID-19 Cases Among Children: Preparing for the Third Wave
This year, we are seeing more cases of COVID infections where children are presenting with symptoms. In addition, the government has cautioned recently that the third wave of COVID infections in India will primarily impact Children. It is important to know the possibilities and prepare accordingly.
The good part is the majority of affected children are having only mild to moderate symptoms and can be managed at home. Only a few will require hospitalization and indoor management and a very small percentage will go on to develop critically or severe COVID symptoms.
COVID-19 as a potential cause when a child presents with symptoms
According to Dr. Urvashi Rana, a Pediatrician at Narayana Multispecialty Hospital in Ahmedabad, when a child experiences symptoms like fever, cough, cold, headache, body aches, vomiting, or diarrhea, COVID-19 should be considered as a possible differential diagnosis, alongside routine infectious causes. This is because children are exhibiting a variety of presentations during this time. Some may display typical symptoms such as fever, cough, loss of taste and smell, and fatigue, while others may manifest non-specific symptoms that resemble other viral illnesses, including respiratory and gastrointestinal symptoms, with or without fever. It is important to note that newborns can contract the virus from their mothers or other family members due to their close proximity during breastfeeding.
Management of Mild COVID-19 Cases in Children: Home Care and Supportive Medications
The majority of COVID-19 cases in children fall into the mild category and can be managed at home. Supportive medications such as antipyretics (e.g., paracetamol) can be administered to reduce fever, while ensuring proper hydration and providing supplements like multivitamins, vitamin C, and zinc. Specific medications may be given to alleviate symptoms such as cough, cold, or diarrhea. However, it is essential to note that antibiotics are not necessary in every case and should be prescribed based on the severity of the illness.
Managing Moderate to Severe COVID-19 Cases in Children: Hospitalization and Treatment Approaches
In cases of moderate to severe COVID-19 illness, hospitalization may be required. Treatment for these children may involve intravenous fluids, oxygen supplementation, and the administration of steroids, which is determined on a case-by-case basis. Regardless of the severity, monitoring the child’s temperature is essential.
MISC: A Potential Risk for Children in the Post-COVID Period
“There is another risk as far as children are concern and that is MISC – Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome following COVID (post-COVID symptoms). Children who may have tested COVID positive in past 1 or 2 months or have come in contact to COVID positive patient, and remained asymptomatic in that period then some of them may develop sudden outset of fever with complaints such as abdominal pain, diarreha, swelling in the hand and feet, conjunctivitis or any other neurological symptoms like redness in the mouth. Though, it is a very small percentage who may develop this complication but it has been seen in children last year and expected this year too once COVID surge subsides. Such children require extensive workup, blood investigation, echocardiography and they need to be managed with the help of steroids IVIG or higher drugs & medication and need to be monitored very closely,” added Dr. Rana.
Preventing COVID-19 in Children: Key Measures to Follow
As far as prevention of COVID in children is concerned, the basic principle is maintaining social distancing, wearing mask (above 2 year) and use of sanitizer or washing hands with soap and water. For children below 2 years, parents or caretakers need to be very careful about covering their nose.
Other things that parents can do to build the immunity of the child is make them eat healthy and nutritious home-cooked food consisting of vegetables and fruits. Parents should ensure that children with less than 5 years of age get the regular vaccination as per the schedule.