MANILA, Philippines – Taking care of a child can be pretty challenging, especially for new parents. The COVID-19 pandemic has made this more difficult as families have to navigate health protocols to prevent the infection and spread of the virus.
The spread of the Omicron variant has brought extra fear and worry to families. The surge in January 2022 made the number of cases since the pandemic started soar to 3 million There also was increased difficulty to control transmission.
In June, the Department of Health said that COVID-19 infections increased by 82% from June 13 to 19 after months of recording low infections. Health authorities also said 11 cities in Metro Manila were showing an increase in cases.
New Omicron subvariants have also emerged such as the more transmissible BA.5, which has already been detected in the Philippines.
The Philippine Pediatric Society (PPS) released “A Parent’s Guide on COVID-19 Infection in Children” in December 2021 to help answer parents’ burning questions on handling the threat of the virus with their children.
“Approximately 12% of COVID-19 cases are seen in the pediatric age group. Although majority of cases are mild, the anxiety incurred by parents is not diminished by this fact,” PPS president Joselyn Eusebio said then.
The PPS has since updated the guidelines in March 2022. These updates are reflected in this article, as of Wednesday, June 22.
Here are some of their tips.
Although mask wearing has become a must in preventing the spread of COVID-19, the PPS discourages the wearing of face masks for the following:
- Children younger than 2 years old, due to risk of suffocation
- Children with breathing difficulties when wearing mask
- Children with cognitive impairments
- If wearing masks would cause the child to touch their face more frequently
Parents should also teach their children proper cough and sneezing etiquette by covering their nose and mouth with a tissue paper or their upper arm, as well as frequently washing their hands with 70% alcohol or soap and water.
“Those who are closer than 6 feet from [a COVID-19] infected person will probably get the virus if these virus particles land on the eyes, nose, or mouth. These particles can also land on objects, and when infants and children touch them and subsequently rub their eyes, nose or mouth, they can get infected,” according to the guide.
Many parents also would tend to sterilize items through the use of ultraviolet (UV) light to eliminate any bacteria and viruses. However, the PPS discourages the use of these sterilizers as they are only recommended in healthcare facilities.
The PPS said that direct exposure to UV could increase the risk of cancer and generate ozone, which could be irritating to the airways.
The organization also adds that, while taking vitamins may help in boosting overall health, these have not been proven to be preventive or therapeutic against COVID-19. Instead, they suggest boosting immunity through proper nutrition to reduce risk and severity of infection.
As children value their leisure and play time, the PPS also suggests that children should be outdoors only for walks or a backyard game.
“However, it is not advisable to invite the neighborhood kids over to play. Avoid crowded places,” the guide said.
Caring for children with COVID-19
With the rapid spread of COVID-19 in the country, the PPS recommends home care if the child is diagnosed with mild infection with the following symptoms:
- Fever of less than or equal to 38°C
- Sore throat
- Loss of smell or taste
- Decrease in appetite
They also recommend home isolation if children display flu-like symptoms or have been exposed to a confirmed patient, even without any test results, to prevent the possible spread of COVID-19.
Children with mild symptoms can stop home isolation 7 days after the display of symptoms.
Parents should do the following while monitoring their child’s condition:
- Take note of:
- Temperature every 4 hours
- Oxygen level every 6 hours using a pulse oximeter
- If not available, monitor for changes in the breathing pattern of the patient.
- Frequency, volume, and color of your child’s urine/urination.
- Encourage your child to rest.
- Keep your child hydrated.
- Use fever-reducing medications if your child has a fever.
- Give age-appropriate healthy foods and offer soft, varied foods that are easy to chew and swallow.
- Continue breastfeeding, if applicable.
What if your child’s condition worsens? Call your pediatrician if you observe any of these symptoms:
- Persistent fever or fever of 38.1°C and above
- Refuses to drink or eat
- Ear pain or with fluid coming out of the ear
- Runny or stuffy nose for 2 weeks or longer
- Bad cough or chest pain
- Persistent headache
- Breathing problems
- Abdominal pain
Parents should also immediately bring the child to the emergency room if they see these signs:
- Appears dehydrated (for example: dizziness, dry or sticky mouth, sunken eyes, crying with few or no tears, less frequency in peeing or fewer wet diapers)
- Unable to drink or talk
- Confused or drowsy
- Trouble breathing, is breathing fast, or looks pale or blue around the lips
- Oxygen levels of less than 95%, if using a pulse oximeter
Breastfeeding has become an important factor in a baby’s early development. The PPS said that feeding breast milk would not lead to the spread of the COVID-19 from mother to child.
However, mothers who have recently delivered or suspected to have COVID-19 are advised to do the following:
- Initiate or continue breastfeeding
- Remain together with baby while rooming-in
- Practice skin-to-skin contact, especially immediately after birth and during the establishment of breastfeeding, whether they or their infants have suspected or confirmed COVID-19
- Wash hands before breastfeeding
- Always wear a mask, preferably N95 or KN95
Those who are confirmed to have COVID-19 and chooses to continue releasing or expressing breast milk are expected to do the following:
- Use one’s own breast pump, if possible.
- Wear mask as breast milk is expressed.
- Wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds before touching any pump or bottle parts, and before expressing breast milk.
- Properly clean pump after each use.
- Store milk safely.
- If a caregiver will feed the expressed breast milk to the baby, choose a healthy and vaccinated caregiver who should wear a mask when caring for the baby.
Parenting during COVID-19 can be hard. But with the right protocols in place, as recommended by PPS and other experts, you can keep your children safe from the virus.
Check out PPS’ full guide below:
For more information on what to do if you or your loved ones test positive for COVID-19, you can check out this guide. – Rappler.com