Can my children get Covid-19? What precautions can parents take?

Hello again parents and parents-to-be,

With the Coronavirus pandemic dominating our lives, the anxiety that comes with being a parent will increase.

To help all us parents better manage the worry about our children and the virus, I spoke to Dr Thulja Trikamjee - a specialist pediatrician with a sub-specialty certificate in paediatric allergy.

Dr Trikamjee, who is on the panel of experts for PURITY’s new Journey Journal App, purityapp.co.za, answered my questions about the dangers, symptoms, and treatment of the virus for children.

Dr Trikamjee, can babies and children get the virus?

Firstly, I need to make a disclaimer that the information that we are getting about Coronavirus is rapidly changing every day.

So literally, if we’re going to discuss the virus today, tomorrow we might find a new case somewhere that might change what we know.

But from what we know now, the answer is yes. Babies and children can get Covid-19, which is the 2019 version of coronavirus.

Bangladeshi child patient wears face masks to prot

However, from statistics that initially came from China, Europe and now around the world, what we’re seeing is that children are not getting it as severely as adults.

The percentage of children that have tested positive has been far less than the adult population.

Also, when we’re looking at those who are most severely affected by the virus and those who are critically ill, and when we look at the deaths that are occurring from the virus, children are not falling into that category, so that’s the good news about children.

Is it deadly?

The answer to that is yes, it is deadly.

In the last few days, between 3% and 5% of cases globally have a mortality rate, meaning that we are seeing a very large proportion of people who were previously well and healthy, no other medical problems, who have died – tested positive for coronavirus and died – and that’s a huge cause for concern.

However, children do not fall into any high risk of death.

Most of the people who are dying or who have died so far from the virus have been shown to be those who are in the elderly population [about the age of 60 and above]; who have heart disease; and people who have lung and breathing problems.

So, asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Included are those who have chronic issues from smoking and lung cancer.

What are the symptoms that a child would display? Are they similar to adult symptoms?

So far the symptoms in general have been what we call respiratory symptoms.

So, simple things that you might get when you have the flu – fever, a runny nose, a cough, and sometimes shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, or breathing heavily.

Some people are also reporting what we call gastro-intestinal symptoms, which is vomiting and diarrhoea – those are less common.

We’re finding children are generally getting mild symptoms of flu, so runny noses and coughing.

There aren’t many children who have had difficulty breathing and have needed life support or ventilators thus far.

Children’s symptoms are similar to those you get in adults, but have been slightly less severe.

And what is the treatment for the virus?

According to the World Health Organisation and the Centre for Disease Control, there is currently no cure for COVID-19.

There are trials going on in the USA, parts of Europe, and China that are looking at vaccines, but they’re still being investigated. 

In terms of treating a child who is sick, is that if they have mild flu-like symptoms and they’re otherwise well, they can be at home and treated exactly the way you would treat the flu.

What I’ve been advising my patients is that simple things like loads of Vitamin C and a good healthy diet go a long way.

Give your children immune-boosting supplements to help them fight the virus itself, and treat their symptoms.

Tasty and healthy tangerines prepared to refresh a

Your GP might give you something to treat their symptoms, for example, a runny nose, or a cough.

If they’re a patient who has known problems with their breathing or asthma, then the doctor might recommend just stepping up their medication.

There is some evidence now which states that you shouldn’t use anti-inflammatories, so that’s something that we have been discouraging - things like Brufen and other anti-inflammatories.

Simple things for pain and fever - like plain Panado are rather advisable. W

When the symptoms are severe, or if you feel that you can’t control them, then you need to contact your doctor or your local healthcare service provider immediately.

What precautions should I take to protect my nanny and my baby?

Firstly, I think there needs to be communication between you and your nanny.

You can control what’s happening indoors with your baby, but you can’t control what the exposure is with your nanny.

Be open enough that your nanny is comfortable to disclose if there is a possibility that they have come into contact with somebody with the virus.

If the nanny has come into contact with somebody who has the virus, then the nanny should not be constantly exposed to the baby and should self-quarantine or isolate herself from the children.

If they have had no contact and that’s confirmed, then the basic measures that we are advising to everybody is constant hand washing, cleaning hands with soap and water, and alcohol-based sanitisers (the World Health Organization is recommending with alcohol 60% or more), and cleaning and disinfecting high-touch surfaces.

Bangladeshi child patient wears face masks to prot

So even the hard surfaces that the children are playing with, toys, kitchen surfaces and stuff which both the nanny and the child are constantly coming into contact with, need to be cleaned consistently.

This includes doorknobs, pens, pencils, crayons and remote controls.

Advise your nanny to cover her mouth when coughing and sneezing, and to not touch her eyes, nose and mouth and then touch the child.

WHO recommendations are that plush toys and even upholstered surfaces, bedsheets and kiddies clothing must be washed according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

We don’t know yet (it’s still being researched) how long the virus can stay on these things alive before it dies. Dirty laundry needs to be washed regularly or more regularly than usual.

Can babies get Covid-19 from dogs and cats?

An article came out three days ago, one of the first scientific articles in medicine, that looks at the origins of the virus itself.

Genetic scientists were looking at where this came from, and how did we get such a novel strain of the virus.

And the reason why everybody is so stressed and concerned with their animals is because now this has proven that there are animal genes in this virus itself.

So, should we keep our kids away from all animals?

Though the virus originated in animals, bats and pangolins are the animals researchers have looked at specifically, pets such as dogs and cats haven’t been scientifically proven to be high risk for passing on the virus.

The following was reported on CNN on Friday March 20 2020:

“No. I think the idea that we’re going to give this virus to our pets or we’re going to get it from them is just nonsense,” said Dr John Williams, chief of the division of pediatric infectious diseases at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh.

“This is not simply my opinion. I’m a virologist, an infectious disease doctor, and I’m just saying there’s no scientific evidence for that,” stressed Williams, who has studied various coronaviruses for decades.

Cat and dog sleeping together. Kitten and puppy ta

“I’m going to debunk that also,” said infectious disease expert Dr William Schaffner, a professor of preventative medicine and infectious disease at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville.

“We don’t have to worry about pets – this virus now likes humans but data show it’s not spreading among pets or farm animals,” Schaffner said.

  • This interview was conducted March 20 2020 and is based on information available at the time. The information is written from the point of view of an expert and does not reflect PURITY and its affiliates.
  • Download the PURITY Journey Journal App, purityapp.co.za, through which parents have access to 24/7 medical support via Hello Doctor.
  • Also keep up to date with the official site of department of health in partnership with the National Institute of Communicable Diseases: sacoronavirus.co.za

For an interview with Dr Trikamjee on protecting yourself during pregnancy visit dailysun.co.za

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