Children are not immune from COVID-19 infection like all other individuals. In this report by SADE OGUNTOLA, experts advise parents on what to do to ensure their children remain healthy throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
F OR Mrs Kemi Adediran, a mother of three teenagers, ensuring they are safe at home, with schools closed indefinitely across many states in Nigeria because of the COVID 19 pandemic that is ravaging the whole world is a big task.
“I had to explain and plead with them to stay at home because of their free days that tally with the market days. They always enjoy going to buy earrings in the market,” said Mrs Adediran.
Mrs Adediran, who is a civil servant, had to explain to them why it’s important that they should stay at home and occupy themselves with other things rather than going out to visit their friends or go shopping.
Although, it was not easy leaving them alone at home, she bought baking flour and its other condiments for them to practice their baking skills to get rid of boredom.
Mr Haruna Hazeem is a journalist who, despite the pandemic, cannot but go out to gather news. Of course, he tries to maintain social distancing as much as possible and also carries a bottle of hand sanitiser for his regular use.
With his children back at home, he declared, “once I come in, I now ask my children not to hug me until I have changed my clothes and washed my hands with soap and water. It is just being careful and trying to protect them because in the course of moving around, I could have been exposed to the COVID 19 infection,” he said.
With schools closed indefinitely across many states in Nigeria, kids are at home during the coronavirus pandemic. It is a decision that many health professionals think is right, to break the transmission of the infection in the community.
Concern about coronavirus (COVID-19) is high, but the risk of serious illness to children seems to be low. So far, most reported cases of coronavirus have been in adults. Children who had it seem to have milder infections than adults or older people.
Still, many parents wonder what to do to keep their children healthy? Dr Taiwo Soyinka, a family physician at the University College Hospital (UCH) said because children, especially teenagers, are very restless, they must be kept busy in a constructive manner till the pandemic is over and could go back to school.
According to Dr Soyinka, parents should ensure that whatever they do on their phones is what is right for their young minds or fill some of their time with school work or indoor sports to keep them busy.
She emphasised the need for washing of hands with soap and water very frequently by children now, including washing of their feet as well if they had to step out of their homes.
Dr Soyinka added, “you can have a basin outside the house, as soon as they come into the house they wash their hands.”
She discouraged the use of pure alcohol as a hand sanitizer for children, saying “it is not as effective as a hand sanitiser because the alcohol will dry off immediately, so it will not be as effective as hand sanitisers that will last longer on the hand to kill germs.
The medical expert said although it is better for children to remain indoors now to avoid them coming in contact with someone infected with COVID19, if they have to go out to a place, they are not sure of, they can use a face mask.
However, she declared, “it is not as if the face mask is 100 per cent protective. Also, another challenge is that many people use face masks wrongly.”
Dr Soyinka said children particularly this COVID 19 pandemic be made to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables to boost their body immunity against infections in general as well as to increase their water intake.
She declared the need for parents to stock up essential medicines that children may need if they fall ill such as paracetamol and anti-malarial drugs.
According to her, “the regular illnesses like malaria are still there, we cannot say because of COVID-19, we forget about the other illnesses like hypertension and diabetes, you must have these essential drugs at home.”
Dr Ojo Samuel, a medical doctor at Oni Memorial Children’s Hospital, Ring road, Ibadan, stressed the need for parents at this period to ensure children maintain good personal hygiene and avoid self-medication.
He urged parents to be wary of visitors to their homes now that COVID 19 is pandemic and no one can identify a person already infected with the virus.
“Visitors that come should not hug or carry the children to maintain a social distance; even when outside, they should be taught not to shake hands or hug anybody,” he added.
Dr Samuel said extra care should also be given to children with diseases such as asthma and sickle cell disease to prevent any crisis.
He declared, “hospitals are still open, so a child that falls ill or develops cough or raised body temperature should be taken to the hospital after the initial first aid.”
Dr Damiam Nwaneri, an associate professor and consultant pediatrician, Institute of Child Health, University of Benin declared that children are prone to contracting COVID-19 infection because the organisms easily settle on surfaces rather than remain in the air, so the need for children to remain indoors.
Nwaneri, an infectious diseases expert said that staying indoors is particularly important for children because they are often in the habit of touching surfaces and thereafter touching their eyes, nose or even the mouth.
He added, “even though the virus may not stay alive for long on their hand, still ensuring that they wash their hands often is very important.”
Dr Nwaneri, who said children, must be made to inculcate the habit of first washing their hands with soap and water once back at home adding that parents can also provide them with hand sanitisers to disinfect their hands as well.
“Since the virus settles on surfaces, he said this season demands that the number of times floors in the homes are mopped with disinfectants is increased as well as the frequency of cleaning other household utensils with disinfecting agents increased,” he said.
Nwaneri, the immediate past secretary, Pediatric Association of Nigeria, warned against children wearing face masks when going out when they do not have a cough, other respiratory disease or coming in contact with a sick person.
He also stressed the need for parents who had to go out to work to take extra precaution to ensure they also do not get infected and then come back to pass it to their children when they get back home.
Dr Taiwo Ladipo, incident manager for the COVID-19 response in Oyo State, however, asked that parents should desist from sending children to hawk or allow them to go and play football at school.
According to him, “the main reason children are meant to be at home is to limit community transmission of the disease. It is not acceptable at this point in time that they should be out hawking, go out to play football or even engage in-home lessons. Schools were closed for such reasons.”
Oyo State Health Commissioner, Dr Bashiru Bello, said, parents should not joke with the health of their wards by being nonchalant about the COVID-19 pandemic.
He said they should not concentrate all their efforts on trading, but always be mindful of the health of their children, adding that if a case of COVID-19 is detected in a market place, for instance, the government may require shutting the market down for a while.