April, May and early June this year were some of the darkest times India faced. There was a severe shortage of resources like hospital beds, oxygen, healthcare staff, and the mortality rate constantly surged during the second COVID19 wave.
This period also taught us many lessons - ones that mainly teach us to value life in the most profound manner. The foremost lesson this period taught us is to be prepared for any impending crisis - especially the third wave.
The vaccination drive is currently going smoothly in many parts of the country; August had the highest number of doses administered. Himachal Pradesh vaccinated 100 percent of its eligible adult population with the first dose; other states are following suit. However, the biggest risk factor is among children.
ARE CHILDREN AT A HIGHER RISK?
As of now, the adult population who have received the vaccine are better off compared to individuals who haven’t. Most fully vaccinated adults have started developing antibodies. This brings us to the fact that children and immunocompromised groups are still at very high risk.
With schools opening up in some parts of India, cases of COVID19 are beginning to rise amongst kids and teenagers. The drug regulators have approved Zydus Cadila’s ZyCoV-D (vaccine) for children above 12 years.
Multiple studies have suggested that children might be affected more in the third wave than adults. If that is the case and more children need hospitalisation, hospitals also need to make amends, prepare paediatric wards with equipment, facilities and more specialists, staff, etc.
In early June, a paediatric panel of 14 experts urged the Centre to earmark 10% of COVID-19 ICU beds for children while asserting that there is no evidence to suggest that an anticipated “third wave” would be harder on kids than the earlier waves.
Having said that, we need to understand that each of us is susceptible to the infection since the virus keeps mutating. Moreover, children remain the unvaccinated lot. Hence, it is crucial to building immunity in children now more than ever.
Too much of anything is not good
Do not overdo anything. Excess vitamin supplements are not recommended for children. Many anxious guardians have started giving Vitamin C, D, Zinc tablets to their children in the hopes of boosting their immunity. However, it may cause adverse effects like mouth ulcers, growth disturbance, muscle pain, etc. Instead, here are some of the ways to ensure immunity in children:
Eating a nutritious and balanced meal. Fruits and vegetables are a perfect natural source of multiple vitamins
Physical activity. Sitting for long hours and spending excessive time with eyes stuck to a screen is detrimental to health. Encourage children to exercise and play. Walking, cycling and running are some physical movements that can boost further immunity by increasing the circulation and production of white blood cells throughout the body
Keep a timely sleeping schedule and say no to staying awake till midnight
Teach them breathing exercises to improve lung capacity and functioning
Since schools have opened for some, make sure your children follow COVID-19 protocols - wearing double masks, sanitising frequently and maintaining physical distancing. We are yet to ascertain the third wave. Hence, we must take utmost precautions to ensure our safety.
(Dr Gurudutt Bhat, Consultant Paediatrics, Fortis Hospital, Kalyan)
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