The Ayush Ministry recently issued a detailed document prepared by its experts which provided guidelines on how to protect children during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The document was titled “Home care guidelines for children and Advisory for AYUSH Practitioners about prophylactic care in Children during the COVID-19 Pandemic”.
Though the immunity of the children is quite strong but with many mutant viruses strains emerging, it is necessary to follow all protocols related to COVID-19 to prevent its effect. Children fall under the most vulnerable group of our population. In contrary to adults, it is very difficult to plan for various preventive and management strategies in children due to their wide age range and anatomical, physiological, immunological, and psychological differences, the 58-page document of the ministry said.
For better compliance of children, it is very important that parents/caregivers should set an example by following COVID appropriate behavior themselves. In this regard, the following suggestions are recommended –
- Educate children to regularly wash their hands for a minimum of 20 seconds with soap and water while singing the rhymes/songs like ABCs.
- Alcohol-based hand sanitizer having a minimum 60% of alcohol, can be used in place unavailability of soap and water. Proper hand wash should be done with soap and water as soon as possible.
- Train children to wash hands after using toilets, coughing, sneezing, nose-blowing, before eating, and immediately when coming inside from outdoor play.
- Offering a small reward may be helpful in case if the child is not willingly washing his/her hands.
- Parents should educate their children about the importance of wearing a mask when they are out of their homes in public places.
- For children aged 12 and over mask is mandatory, supervision is not required.
- For children age between 5-12 years, the mask is mandatory, under the parent’s supervision.
- For 2-5 years of age children mask is desirable, under the parent’s supervision.
Masks should be avoided in case of –
- Children aged less than 2 years.
- Having breathing difficulty or unconsciousness.
- Inability to remove the mask without help.
- Also, Non-medical or fabric mask is preferable for children who are in good general health.
- Medical masks are desirable for children suffering from immune-comprising disorders like Cancer, AIDS, Diabetes, etc.
- Parents should ensure adequate stock at home. Children and adolescents like attractive, colorful, trendy masks. Provide them such masks for good compliance. Three-layered cotton masks are preferred. Valve masks should be avoided.
- Select a snuggly fitting mask of the proper size for the child which covers the nose, the mouth, and the chin completely, but doesn’t cause trouble while breathing.
- Avoid attending public functions, social gatherings, crowded places like parks, religious places, markets, and group play.
- Avoid traveling and stay at home in possible limits.
- Help the kids stay connected with friends and extended family members through available sources like video and phone calls.
- A distance of preferably 6 feet or at least 3 feet should be observed while outside the house
- Educate children to cover nose and mouth with tissue paper/handkerchief or with a bent elbow or in the sleeve when coughing or sneezing. Care should be taken that the droplets do not touch the palms or are not be liberated in the air.
- Ensure immediate and proper disposal of the tissue paper and washing of the handkerchief.
- Advice social distancing with anyone who is coughing or sneezing.
Measures to take –
The guidelines say children should be given lukewarm water to drink, ensure hygiene through proper brushing in the morning and at night for children above two years of age, and oil pulling and gargles with warm water for children above 5 years of age. Oil massages, nasal application of oil, and Yoga practices like Pranayama and meditation and other exercises as per 5+ year old child’s capacities should be encouraged, guidelines say.
Ayurveda prophylactic measures and immunity-building solutions for children like turmeric milk, chawanprash, and a decoction of traditional herbs (Ayush Bal Kwath), and Ayurvedic medicines for symptomatic children have been specified for the guidance of Ayurveda practitioners.
Special Measures to take:
- COVID suspect children should not be in contact with the grandparents. Elderly people are at very high risk of serious disease and unless child’s status is definitely corona negative, child should not be left with grandparents.
- It is good to take teleconsultation for the child from a doctor rather than taking him to clinic. This will prevent spread to others and also reduce pain of traveling and waiting.
- Most of the treatment of pre-existing diseases need not be altered unless the child contracts severe disease.
- Newborn, infants under one year of age, immunocompromised children like AIDS, Cancer, malnourished children, genetic disorders like Down’s syndrome, muscular dystrophies, sickle cell disease, children suffering from chronic diseases like asthma, diabetes, cardiovascular, Neurodevelopmental disorders like CP, autism, infectious diseases or psychiatric disorders are at higher risk of catching COVID -19. Hence stringent precautions are warranted in these children.
- Parents should keep themselves updated with the relevant latest guidelines by authentic sources regarding the COVID-19 should be followed strictly advised by the healthcare providers. Special precautions.
Watch for symptoms –
- Fever lasting beyond 4 or 5 days.
- Decreased oral intake by child.
- A child becoming lethargic
- Increasing respiratory rate
- Oxygen saturation dropping below 95% (ensure proper recording by a standard oximeter with good displayed waves).
- Diarrhoea/vomiting/pain in abdomen/Red eyes/rash over body.
- Irritability, unconsciousness
- Poor urine output.
The document also reveals some major factors which will affect the mental health of younger and older children. More to that, it suggests some preventive measures to counter the same.
“The guideline is a supplement (add-on to present contemporary line of management) to the Covid-19 appropriate behavior and precautionary measures and it should not be taken as its substitute,” the document says in the disclaimer, adding that the parents should consult a qualified AYUSH physician as all the measures advised need not to be advised in all children.