Paediatricians are starting to see adult-like symptoms in child patients of Covid 19 in India unlike the first coronavirus wave when the disease in children was largely asymptomatic.
A large number of children in the country are presenting with respiratory symptoms in the second wave including fever, cough, runny nose, allergy, abdominal pain, fatigue and even interruptions in the food cycle.
Previously paediatricians were seeing children nearing adolescence getting sick with Covid but now they are seeing even younger children getting the disease. Though the Indian Academy of Paediatricians have clarified that the third wave of Covid would not affect children disproportionately as is being thought.
In the last sero survey of Covid prevalence by ICMR, it was found that the rate of disease prevalence in 10 to 17 year olds was the same as in adults – 25 percent but with medics seeing a growing number of children, it is unclear whether these trends will hold.
Many children are now reporting respiratory problems, which was not the case in the previous wave when fever, rashes and Kawasaki disease were the common signs among Covid positive children. Now medics are seeing respiratory distress like pneumonia (in children with Covid), which is an adult-like symptom.
However, lack of severe disease in children is still a silver lining.
The recovery rate is much better in children than in adults, though children were transmitting the virus to families.
- Masks for children aged 2 years and above and certainly for those aged 5 years and above.
- Children playing in groups not advisable and social distancing very important.
- Indoor play is better, and families must see clinicians if their wards complained of fever, cough, weakness and abdominal pain and if a child with no history of allergy reports allergy.
Paediatricians should also prepare themselves for treating children with Covid. Hospitals should be ready in time. As of today we have very few hospitals with paediatric facilities, and treatment principles in children were the same as in adults.
Mutants are punishing children. We need to gear up to face the pediatric burden of Covid.
The government has meanwhile readied a clinical protocol for Covid in children and has maintained that the disease in children is largely asymptomatic. But this could be changing, as ground experience of paediatricians show.
(Dr Naresh Purohit is advisor to the National Communicable Disease Control Programme. He is also Advisor to six other National Health Programmes. He is visiting Professor in five Medical Universities of Southern India including Thrissur based Kerala University of Health Sciences. (The views and opinion expressed in this article are those of the author)