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Protect children against COVID-19

By Hubert Vaz

Last  week, the Ministry of Health confirmed that the youngest patient infected with COVID-19 in Oman – a one-and-half-year old baby, recovered and was discharged from Royal Hospital. The infant, who had contracted the disease from one of his parents diagnosed with COVID-19, had been admitted to the hospital’s Pediatric Ward after suffering from rapid breathing and mild cough.

After being administered the required medical care, the baby’s conditioned improved and it was discharged from hospital and sent to the care of family members. The MoH, has therefore emphasised that maximum caution must be exercised so as not to compromise the health of children and elderly persons.

Since patients with underlying medical conditions like diabetes are more at risk to develop complications, if they contract the coronavirus, Dr Noor al Busaidi, director of the National Diabetes and Endocrine Center and president of Oman Diabetes Association, informs that the centre ensures that diabetes patients continue to receive the best care and information by activating virtual clinics and creating video educational materials to support patients in this time of need.

Dr Aisha al Senani, head of paediatric units at the centre, also pointed out that several medical journals have published studies based on observations in children and teens in China who have COVID-19. The largest study so far, published in pediatrics, included analysis of 2,143 children with COVID-19 documented from January 16 to February 8 in China. The study found that symptoms of the disease were generally less severe in children and teens compared with adults. Specifically, 4.4 per cent had no symptoms, 50.9 percent had mild symptoms and 38.8 per cent had moderate symptoms.

Of the children with symptoms, only 0.6 percent developed acute respiratory distress syndrome or multiple organ dysfunction.  However, young children, particularly infants under one year of age, had a higher risk for significant illness. Ten per cent of infants had severe disease, compared with three per cent of teens over age 15, she asserted.

In view of this, Dr Aisha has listed a few tips on how to care for children suffering from diabetes.

“It is better that parents of a child with diabetes plan ahead of time about what to do before they get sick. Telephone numbers of their health care provider should be at hand, besides keeping adequate stock of medications and consumables for monitoring blood glucose at home, so that they do not need to go out,”

Dr Aisha cautions.

Children who contract the virus

They may see their glycaemic control deteriorate during the illness. They should practice the ‘Sick day rules’ recommended for any stressful situation (which has been explained in detail to all parents ) and they should contact their health care provider immediately for advice regarding how often to monitor their blood sugar, get adequate refills for medications (especially insulin) and what adjustments they may need to do in their medication or diet.

Sick day rules for children with diabetes

  1. Keep the child hydrated
  2. Monitor blood glucose more frequently
  3. Monitor temperature of your child
  4. If on insulin, also monitor ketone bodies if BG > 15 mmol
  5. Follow healthcare team recommendations.

Need for urgent care

Take your child immediately to the Emergency in the nearest hospital if:

  • Having difficulty breathing
  • Has blue lips or skin, or appears very pale
  • Is coughing excessively, particularly with a fever
  • Is vomiting excessively.
  • Has diarrhea and vomiting, not producing tears, and has not urinated for several hours
  • Has a high fever, appears very sleepy, and has not improved with acetaminophen (Panadol ).

How to keep the disease away – for all children

  • Frequently wash hands with soap and water or use an alcohol-based solution, especially before eating and after being in public.
  • Don’t share food, tools, glasses and towels.
  • Avoid close contact with those who are sick. If someone is visibly ill, coughing or sneezing, keep away.
  • If you get sick with respiratory symptoms, stay at home and notify others and your health care provider of the illness.
  • When sneezing or coughing, cover the nose and mouth with a tissue or with the crook of the elbow.