COVID-19 and Children: Will The Third Wave Affect Kids?
- Dr. Sreelekha Daruvuri
- 3 Min Read
- Fact Checked
With the second wave slowly subsiding, and states lifting lockdown restrictions, the next big question is whether there will be a third wave? Most importantly, will it affect children? When the pandemic hit back in 2020, the country experienced a change very quickly – schools were shut down and events were cancelled with affected communities being put under the Red zone. It’s a fact that the COVID-19 second wave hit India with full force. The reason could have been the new variants or the ignorance of safety protocols. The second time around, younger individuals were affected more than they were during the first wave. This left many of the country’s citizens worried about another wave and it’s effect on a much more vulnerable age group of younger children.
Are children more susceptible to COVID-19?
Not really. In fact, children are less frequently or severely affected when compared to the adult population. The mortality rate is almost 0 in the under 10 age group. This is due to various reasons.
- ACE 2 receptor expression is less in children and the endothelial lining is good when compared to adult lungs
- Cytokines are not pro-inflammatory
- Children have more effective antibody and cell response
- Strong innate immunity due to trained immunity (by live vaccines and frequent viral infections) which can lead to early control of the virus at the site of entry
- Less comorbidities – smoking/hypertension/diabetes
- Excellent regenerative capacity of lung epithelium which can suggest early recovery from a COVID-19 infection should they get infected
Learn more by watching the video below.
COVID-19 symptoms in children
Classical manifestations of COVID-19 infections in children are:
– Flu like symptoms
– Cold, cough and sore throat
In 5-10% of children atypical symptoms are present in the form:
– Pain in the abdomen with no respiratory symptoms at all.
Less than 3% of children can experience rash and eruptions on the toes.
If your child exhibits symptoms of COVID-19 or you think he/she might be infected, consult with a pediatrician online.
How to manage symptoms in a COVID-19 positive child
Mild cases with no other illness like type 1 diabetes, can be managed at home under the guidance of a doctor. Most of the cases are uncomplicated. Moderate and severe cases where the respiratory rate is higher are to be treated in hospital.
- The child has to be isolated and the caregiver has to wear a PPE kit if available or at least double mask when in close contact with the child
- Sanitize frequently touched surfaces like doorknobs and switches
By following certain precautions breastfeeding mothers can still feed their babies and maintain a distance of 6 feet when not feeding.
How to prevent COVID-19 in children
Adults/caregivers should be vaccinated:
Adults >18 years are to be vaccinated as early as possible to prevent the spread of infection to children. Pregnant women and lactating women are advised to take vaccination as it will help transmit protective antibodies to the babies.
Children should be taught to wash their hands for at least 20 seconds. When at home this should be done every 4-5 hours. This is to be practiced when a child uses washrooms or comes home from outside.
Masking for protection:
Children above the age of 5 years should wear masks, preferably Triple 8 masks or cloth masks. This becomes essential when children are playing outside. It is also important to teach children not to touch their faces or outer part of the masks.
It’s important to talk to your children and teach them about COVID-19 instead of simply asking them to follow safety protocol. Teaching a child to cough or sneeze into the elbow or into a tissue and discarding it properly is way more effective.
Avoid taking children grocery shopping or to crowded areas, especially children less < 2 years. Encourage children to keep away from crowds and practice social distancing.
If you’re travelling with unvaccinated children, read our blog to learn how to do safely.
Flu vaccine and MMR vaccine for COVID-19 in children
The Flu and MMR vaccines are to be given to children as a part of the regular immunization schedule. But these will not protect a child from a COVID-19 infection. There is no evidence or data so far that these vaccines are helpful.
As of now, COVID-19 vaccines for the pediatric age groups are under trials in India. Until we get an approved vaccine for children in India, it’s our responsibility as adults to keep them safe. If a child shows any symptoms of COVID-19 or has been exposed to someone who has had the infection, contact a pediatrician immediately.