Ever since the Covid-19 outbreak occurred, little emphasis has been put on the paediatric population.
This is mainly because, unlike other infectious diseases, Covid-19 tends to cause milder disease in children compared to adults.
In some cases, affected children do not even show symptoms even though they may spread the disease. There have however been some reports of atypical and severe disease in children which makes it necessary for every parent/guardian to acquaint themselves with how Covid-19 presents in children so that interventions can be started early.
Covid-19 as many know by now, is an illness caused by the novel Coronavirus (SARS Cov-2) which was first identified in Wuhan China.
Signs and symptoms of Covid-19 in children mimic a lot of common diseases in children.
The typical incubation period is 1 to 14 days with an average of 3 to 7 days. The commonest symptoms are cough and fever. Other symptoms are sore throat, diarrhoea, bodily pains, fatigue, runny nose, vomiting, abdominal pain, fast breathing and rash (papulovesicular).
There have been instances where affected children have presented with persistent fever, skin rash, conjunctivitis, and shock. A condition known as paediatric multi system inflammatory syndrome, which can be fatal.
It is also not uncommon to have Covid-19 existing with other medical conditions such as malaria and bacterial pneumonia. Chances of having severe disease increases when a child has other immunocompromising conditions such as diabetes, cancer or is receiving cancer treatment.
Other conditions such as HIV and tuberculosis also predispose children to getting severe disease. These children must be protected from contacts as much as possible.
In terms of mother to child transmission, evidence so far shows low transmission rate from mother to child at the time of delivery but it is not impossible to have transmission occurring.
Transmission from a mother to her unborn child in the womb has not been proven yet. However, babies can be infected after birth and are vulnerable to getting severe disease due to their immature immune system.
Infected mothers are advised to stay six feet away from their babies if possible, or wear a mask and observe hand hygiene. Breast milk can be expressed and given to the baby because the virus has not been detected in the breast milk of affected mothers.
It is important to have children eat food rich in vegetables and fruits to strengthen their immune system. Let us also not forget to get them their regular immunizations.
For those with chronic conditions (asthma, epilepsy, sickle cell disease etc), let us consult with their doctors and find ways to restock their medications. Let us also help them to observe the age appropriate protocols. That is, hand hygiene, mask wearing, cough etiquette and social distancing.
If you suspect Covid-19 in a child, don’t hesitate to call 112.
Together, we shall overcome.
By Dr Gloria Amponsah-Kodua|3news|Ghana
The writer is a paediatrician with the Tafo Government Hospital, Kumasi.