Five-year-old Michelle was curious to know why her parents wore face masks when going out of the house.
She decided to find out and they told her it was to protect them from COVID-19, the same disease that made her aunties stop them from coming to school.
Since the conversation, she reminds her parents to wear face masks whenever she sees them going out.
She also encouraged them to buy face masks for her and her little brother.
Medical experts said parents need to help children apply safety measures to protect them from COVID-19 infection.
Infection with COVID-19 has been reported in all age groups, including infants, children and young adults across the world even as studies consistently indicate that children under the age of 18 make up only around 2% of total cases globally.
Researchers say that one explanation for these low numbers is that, because children often experience milder symptoms than adults, they are less likely to be tested.
However, data from countries that have conducted widespread community testing for the virus suggest that children may also be less likely to be infected in the first place.
In South Korea, children younger than nine years accounted for just 1% of laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19, whereas children aged between ten and 19 accounted for 5.2% of cases.
In Iceland, young children were less likely to test positive for SARS-CoV-2 than adolescents or adults, and no cases were found in children under 10 years in random population screening.
Similarly, no cases were found among 374 children under 10 years tested for the virus in the Italian town of Vò, where 2.4% of people of all ages were found to be infected.
In Nigeria, no data so far has stated the number of children infected with coronavirus pandemic since the first index case was reported in February and the numbers of cases keep skyrocketing.
The Clinical Director at Our Lady of Guadalape Health Foundation and Autism Centre, Abuja, Dr. Doris Izuwa said, it is the duty of parents and caregivers to protect their children from COVID-19 infection while teaching them precautionary measures to avoid contracting the viral disease.
She said virus infection was no respecter of age or persons so precautionary measures were expected to be taken by everyone.
Dr. Izuwa said to keep children safe from contracting the virus, parents must keep building their immunity and keep them healthy.
She said this could be achieved by giving them balanced nutrition with lots of fruits and vegetables.
“Supplements to help with immune system such as multivitamin with Vitamin C, Omega 3 fatty acids should be given.
“Stock up on non-perishable foods as much as possible. This is the time to plant your vegetables and spices if you have a small garden in the house,“ she said.
Dr. Izuwa gave the following tips on how to protect the children from being infected with the COVID-19 pandemic:
Improve on hygiene to avoid spread of disease
– Parents can teach their children how to wash their hands regularly for up to 20 seconds using soap.
– Regular use of alcohol-based sanitisers kept at strategic places in the house.
– Avoid touching of the face while outside.
– Ensure children are taught how to wear face mask and keep it on throughout the time they are outside the home or when there is an external person in the house
– Drink lots of water.
– Disinfect the house and surfaces frequently
– If parents are working, please take a shower and keep away books, bags, and things you came back with before mixing with others in the house. Find a particular bathroom to use and wash you clothe as soon as possible.
– If you as a parent work in the frontline, develop protocol on how to sanitise yourself before coming into the main house.
Avoiding contacts with other people
– Since COVID-19 is not written on the face and anyone can be a asymptomatic, protect your children but reducing contacts with people especially domestic staff living outside of the home.
– Teach them how to maintain social distancing while walking on the road or in the mall.
– No visitors for now except if it is an emergency, e.g. flooding or electrical issues and they must all wash hands, wear their face masks before entering the compound. Children must be kept away till the visitors go.
Improve on health
– Improve on mental health by encouraging them to play and have fun as children while trying to maintain daily structured routine to avoid boredom and depression.
– Talk to the teens who are still at home and get to know when they are hurting and what they need to be done for them.
– Ensure that every child at home with possible comorbidities that might make COVID-19 disastrous such as heart conditions, respiratory issues like asthma are monitored and taken to hospital once there is a change in their status quo.
– If a child should have common cold, ensure free flow of air in the respiratory airway via steam inhalation, normal saline nebulisation, and lots of water.
– Talk to them about COVID-19 and relax anxiety and depression as they might be frightened on what is happening around the world.
– Help them cope with stress once it is noticed by remaining calm, allay anxiety, listen, and pay attention to them, avoid blame.
– If your child is on any routine drugs such as antiseizure drugs, routine drugs for sickle cell children, please ensure you have enough to last for a month at each point in time.
– Stock up on regular emergency over the counter drugs such as oral rehydration solutions, anti-inflammatory, others.
– Ensure adequate sleep.
Physical, educational and social activities
– These will contribute to mental health balance and can be done by taking walks or riding with your child. Keep your child active to expend their energy but please make sure they are wearing their masks.
– Find time to continue with positive social interaction by watching TV together, reading to them at night, playing and spending time with them, video chat with grandma and other close relatives
– Protect their education by ensuring they don’t lag behind, continue online classes with their school, check their assignments and let the older siblings help the younger ones.
– Encourage the teens to take up daily home chores for independent living such as cooking, house cleaning, braiding of hair, sewing if they have sewing machine.
– Teach them core values such as integrity, honesty, love, how to care for others via COVID-19 relief to less privilege as these will help them later in future.
– Limit the amount of information on COVID-19 via social media as continual exposure might increase stress.
– Improve on prayer life as a family.
Be a hawk
– With relaxation of lock down, some parents are at work while children are still at home. Please ensure an adult is with the children to prevent sexual abuse. Let them stay indoors, especially the adolescents when you are not around, no wandering without your permission, talk to them because many pedophiles might be lurking in the background. Also, within the home, be careful if there are different relations of the opposite sex staying with you.
– Be a role model because there is increase in anxiety in parents who might quarrel at home and give wrong values to the children.
– Keep away drugs and alcohol because of the teens. Now they are bored, find ways to keep them happy and busy.
– If you notice signs and symptoms of COVID-19, please call your doctor, follow guidelines, and call numbers listed for Nigeria’s Centre for Disease Control (NCDC). If you and your family have been exposed to anyone with COVID-19, please isolate everyone to avoid infecting others till you are cleared. Please go to the hospital if your child is very sick.