Is pandemic affecting the immunity in children?
If we talk about immunity in children, it puts a big question mark on a child’s well being. Who thought how our lives would turn out in this pandemic? In the last 12 months, it has badly impacted human health, families, professional lives and of course, social relationships.
However, have we ever given a thought to how badly coronavirus has affected the lives of children? If we observe and analyse the past twelve months, It has abruptly turned their lives upside down.
We restrict them to play, get involved in outdoor activities, eat junk, stand in a group and most important they have to put on the mask. Isn’t it too much for a kid? It won’t be an exaggeration if I say that the situations have made them adults all of a sudden.
“A person in public without a mask during a pandemic is a walking septic tank.”― Abhijit Naskar
The above quote reflects the terror and the terrible consequences of being caught by the virus. Although we have protected our children and family from the deadly consequences of the virus, it has affected the immunity in children at the same time.
Exposure to the external environment makes children strong. The interactions between a child’s body and the external factors (sun rays, wind, rain, dust etc.) boost a child’s immune system.
Has pandemic affected both behaviour and immunity in children?
“All children are born to grow, to develop, to live, to love, and to articulate their needs and feelings for their self-protection.” ― Alice Miller
We encourage children to go out and play in the parks or streets. Their immune system strengthens when they come in contact with other people. The attack of germs on their bodies enhances their inner strength to fight against infections.
However, staying disconnected from the outside world is the only way out to stay safe and protected from the noxious effects of coronavirus.
The circumstances have made the life of children difficult and monotonous. Also, they are attending online classes on laptops, which is even harming their eyesight along with their physical strength.
The worst part of the situation is that the children born in 2019 are unaware of outside exposure, playing with other children, rolling in mud or running on the streets.
How to make children familiar with the world that existing beyond the four walls is the primary concern of parents these days.
“Too close supervision stifles the mental growth of children.”― Abhijit Naskar
World-famous neuroscientist and author Abhijit Naskar has stated very clearly through the above quote that little humans ought to be independent and confident. They need their own space and freedom to learn more and more about the world they exist in.
However, the sudden overprotection and house arrest mode have not only affected immunity in children but have made them irritated and arrogant too.
All that parents have is to keep them busy with phones, television or laptops. We read hundreds of articles describing the harms of mobile screens for children. Still, we find ourselves helpless regarding this addiction due to the pandemic.
Restrictions are killing childhood
The lack of sun exposure or external environment also causes a deficiency of vitamin D in children, which might lead to the weakening of bones in future.
All the above tribulations that have initiated due to corona has also lead to behavioural problems in children. It has affected their appetite, inner strength and vigour along with immunity.
The irritation of being house arrest is affecting the child’s mental, physical and personal growth as a whole.
In short, the increasing havoc of coronavirus has disrupted the connectivity of children with the outside world, thereby making them more sensitive to bacterial and viral infections.
Reports on coronavirus in children
Children must indeed get exposure to a variety of microbes to strengthen their immune system. However, there is a hell of lot of ‘ifs and buts’ when it comes to coronavirus infection. According to the April 2020 report of Times of India, over 1 519,442 people of all age groups are affected by the deadly virus.
Although there are lesser cases registered of children getting infected, they are more likely to create greater risk as compared to the adults.
Research says that children show minor symptoms of diseases like fever or shortness of breath. They might not get affected severely by the disease but can create risk for the elderly members of the family.
As the infection is transmitted primarily through respiratory droplets, children become carriers.
Another challenge that is associated with the infected child is that he might be asymptomatic, which restricts other members to keep precautions. As a result of which other members catch the disease very soon.
Are children asymptomatic to the virus?
A study shows that out of 2572 under eighteen patients in the United States, only 70 % shows typical covid symptoms, while the remaining were asymptomatic. The study also reveals that only 5% of the infected children needed hospitalisation.
A Times of India report also says that babies and infants under age one are more likely to catch virus due to weak immunity. Thus, altogether children showed less severe symptoms as compared to adults. However, it is necessary to keep a close watch over the activities of kids. It is the only way to stop the spread of infection among other family members.
A report by UNICEF throws light on the future consequences of the deadly pandemic. It reveals that children from Asian countries like Pakistan, Bhutan, Bangladesh, India, Afghanistan and Nepal are likely to become the victims of the covid 19 infections.
Prepare them to fight with situations.
“I continue to believe that if children are given the necessary tools to succeed, they will succeed beyond their wildest dreams.” – David Vitter
David Bruce Vitter, an American lawyer, lobbyist and politician has given a clear picture of child psychology and the level of enthusiasm in them. However, many unlucky children in the world haven’t even started their schooling yet due to the current conditions.
Although their brains are ready to grasp the complexities of the world existing around them, their hands are tied. The dilemma has made parents stand in the vicious circle of an unanswered question as to how to deal with the challenges thrown by pandemic regarding behavioural problems in children.
In the current scenario, parents are concerned about their children’s well-being. Conversely, home confinement is getting difficult for them with each passing day. They lack tactics to keep them busy in the indoor activities while letting them go out can be precarious. So, what is the best way to deal with the situation?
Precautions to be taken for the children in pandemic
Anything is possible in the world but to stop children from stepping out of the home. As we all can foresee the future, the situations will remain the same until the vaccine comes. So, is it possible to make children sit at home till then? It is rather difficult to say yes.
The fact is that confinement is weakening immunity in children and of course, creating hindrance in their personality development. Thus, to minimise the risk factors associated with the children, when they step out, some safety measures are necessary.
Precautions to be taken at home
How to behave
Parents must train little humans as to how to deal with the difficulties of the pandemic. They must know that they are unsafe outside as well as at home if they do not follow the precautions.
Although little toddlers have to be under the strict supervision of the parents, children of 7-13 years of age must get safety instructions regarding their protection from covid.
- Handwashing – Parents and mentors must tell them that if they have touched any outer object or have been out of home for some time, their first job is to wash hands immediately as soon as they enter the house.
- Encourage them to force others to follow the rules – Teach them to say ‘don’t do’. They must be confident enough to point others’ mistakes as well. If any member or an outsider fails to put on the mask or forget to wash hands, train your children in a way that they could make others aware of these blunders.
Precautions to be taken outside
- Say no to touching and hugging – They must also know that social distancing is a must. It is a must to maintain a distance of at least two hands with their friends or classmates at school. They must also maintain the same discipline in public parks and school premises.
- Coughing sneezing etiquette – when we were in school, putting hands on mouth and nose while sneezing and coughing were the part of etiquettes. The place of etiquette has now taken over by necessity and precautions. Yes! that’s what we call a ‘new normal.’ Children must be taught that the right way to sneeze and cough is by putting an elbow over the mouth and nose so that their palm remains protected from the infection.
Where not to send?
- Avoid parties and gatherings – If a child insists on sending him to a birthday party or some get-togethers then don’t let him or her go. Parents should be strict and firm in these matters as it is for their child’s safety.
- If a family member of your child’s friend is corona positive, then insist his friend on staying at home and strictly prohibit your child to walk even near to his house premises.
What should Parents do, if school or coaching starts?
First of all, parents must keep a regular check on school activities. Keep asking your child as what school authorities are practising to maintain the safety of students.
- Ask your children if they are maintaining social distancing?
- Are school authorities sanitising benches every day?
- Are they checking the temperature of staff and students?
- Is putting on the mask compulsion or not?
To get sure, Parents can directly approach school authorities regarding the same. Besides this, the school must also let parents know if they find any infected child. It would make parents and kids extra attentive. At the same time, an infected child should not be allowed to attend school.
How to make lives better? Connection of immunity with the environment
“Children are not things to be moulded, but are people to be unfolded.” — Jess Lair, author
There is a direct connection of nature with immunity in children. However, besides nature and the natural elements, a child’s surroundings and ambience put a great impact on his mental and physical health simultaneously. In other words, what a child observes around decides his well being.
Though it is a tough time for the whole world as confinement in a home is making everyone irritated, it is imperative to create positivity and liveliness around kids. There are a few things that could relieve children from the monotony prevailing around them to some extent
Video call/phone – Make children talk to their friends and relatives over voice or video call. It is one of the best ways to interact with people and get rid of boredom. Interaction not only removes the monotony, but it makes people feel connected.
Diet plays a significant role in making immunity stronger.
As discussed above, covid has drastically changed the lives of children regarding their activities, studies and social interactions. But what covid has hit the most is the eating habits of children. On the one hand, their physical activities have stopped, despite, on the contrary, their munching has increased.
Since children are sitting at home every time, they demand something or the other to eat, the majority of which is junk.
It is not only affecting digestion and immunity in children but is also pushing children towards obesity and lack of strength. The only way to overcome this problem is to add nutritious ingredients in the meals of children. Try to add nutrients like
– Protein – egg, chicken, meat
– Plant-based protein – beans, nut butter (Eg. Peanut butter), almonds, pistachios, walnut etc.
– Carbohydrates – fruits, legumes, dairy products etc.
– Iron – beef, pork, dried fruits, leafy green vegetables, cereals, bread etc.
Note – Animal-based iron is more absorbable than plant-based iron.
– Vitamin – Vitamin supplements play a crucial role in making bones stronger.
Play games indoor/online – How about being a kid with a kid? Indeed, confinement has some positive effects too. It is the best chance for parents and mentors to relive childhood again. Children feel happy when they get the companionship of their parents; especially in the activities, they like the most.
Do not get stressed – According to child psychologists, parents’ actions and behaviour affects a child’s behaviour. If father and mother return happy from work, children feel like sharing their day to day activities with them. On the contrary, stressed-out parents throw a negative impact on children, thereby making them quiet and frightened.
Keep essential food items and medicines in stock
One can compromise with other non-essential commodities in the current scenario like clothes and jewellery but nutritious food items for kids. Nutrition plays an essential role in building immunity in children and stimulating growth. It also enhances physical and mental strength in children. Thus, ignoring a balanced diet can cause an irreparable deficiency in kids. It is advisable to go out once and stock non-perishable food items and supplements for kids.
Wash eatables properly
Don’t forget to wash all the vegetables and fruits in lukewarm water. It maintains hygiene and prevents other infections.
Ventilation and sun rays are necessary.
Since children are not going out regularly, they are unexposed to vitamin D, which they get from sun rays. It is, therefore, necessary to open all the windows of the house and let sun rays come in. It makes bones stronger and enhances immunity to a great extent.
“The greatest gifts you can give your children are the roots of responsibility and the wings of independence.” — Denis Waitley, motivational speaker
Although we all are bound to stay at home, a question that haunts us is that for how long can we stop our kids from going out? We have no other alternative than to let them lead a childlike life. Thus, we can let them express their childish instinct and learn more about the beauty of the world.
However, parents must keep an eye on their children’s whereabouts. It must be a priority for parents to check that they do not go out without mask on their mouth and sanitiser in their pockets. All we can do is boost immunity in children so that they can remain protected to a certain point.
The new normal has changed the lifestyle and life trends to a great extent. But we can make the lives of our children better by being extra attentive in some routine practices, washing and sanitising is essential among them.
Make your child aware of the deadly consequences of the disease so that putting mask and sanitisation becomes a habit for them. Also, tell them the importance of nutritious food and restrict them from eating junk outside. By understanding innocent child psychology and creating some rules, you can make lives better for your kids.