What is the impact of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) on children?
The good news is that so far children seem to be resilient to the worst effects of the virus. Studies have so far found that children accounted for anywhere between two and 13% of all infections. Research is still evolving and these figures may change. A study of 72,000 cases in China found not a single child death among the 1,023 deaths recorded at the time. Very few hospitalizations were also recorded. The medical community is still unsure about why children seem to fare better when they have the virus. They may simply be fitter and able to fight infection and recover.
What are the symptoms that a child is likely to experience?
Children typically have mild symptoms such as a fever, runny nose or cough. These are similar to common seasonal influenza or the common cold. A test is needed to confirm if someone has COVID-19. If you suspect that your child may have the virus, follow local health authority guidance on how to go about getting a test and — until the test is done — try to keep your child from potentially infecting others who may be at greater risk from the disease (including older adults). Consider calling your health care provider if your child, you or a close contact has travelled from an area affected by COVID-19. Many countries are asking people to call ahead before taking a child or adult to a health clinic who has symptoms of COVID-19.
What do I need to keep children safe?
Frequent handwashing with soap or sanitizer and good respiratory hygiene (coughing or sneezing into one’s flexed elbow or a tissue, then throwing away the tissue into a closed bin) are the most important things children, just like adults, should do. Help your children get into a regular habit of washing their hands. Setting an alarm on their phone or watch and encouraging children to wash their hands every time they come indoors, get off the school bus and every time a school break finishes, are some ways of encouraging this.
Should I travel with my children?
Before traveling, check on travel advisories for destination countries. Travel information is constantly changing and countries may bar entry or require quarantine periods and your return country may restrict re-entry or require a longer quarantine upon re-entry.
While traveling, try to keep children healthy by employing good hygiene practices. Avoid close contact with passengers displaying respiratory symptoms, ensure children wash their hands frequently with soap or sanitizer and clean surfaces, such as aircraft tables, armrests and hotel doorknobs with a disinfecting wipe. Guardians should carry a hand sanitizer, a pack of tissues and disinfecting wipes.
How can I keep my children from getting upset and stressed by what they are seeing?
Help children find positive ways to express feelings such as fear or sadness. A creative activity, such as playing and drawing can help, although every child is different. Children are more likely to communicate feelings in a safe and supportive environment. Having parents and loved ones around can help children feel secure.
Avoid separating children from those they feel close to. If a child needs to be separated then proper alternative care needs to be provided. Parents and other caregivers can also ease the burden of separation by phoning or using social media and video calling several times a day.
Maintaining a familiar routine, especially if the child is at home and encouraging socialisation with others in the family who are not displaying symptoms of COVID-19 also creates a sense of security and normalcy.
When children are stressed they typically seek more attachment and are more demanding, so spend time with your child trying to understand their concerns and addressing them in ways that are age-appropriate.
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