THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: A few days back, a 12-year-old child who complained of diarrhoea and other symptoms such as fever was rushed to a paediatrician by his parents. After diagnosing the child, the paediatrician recommended routine stool examination and go for a rapid antigen test to check if the child had contracted COVID-19.
During the follow-up treatment, the paediatrician realised that the parents didn’t go for an antigen test as the child’s fever had come down and the child was feeling better. Many paediatricians say that parents are either delaying or they hesitate out of fear to do the RT-PCR tests even when a child shows symptoms of COVID-19.
Unlike during the first wave, the second wave of COVID is known to be affecting children more and many are coming up with symptoms such as fever, cold, dry cough, diarrhoea, vomiting, fatigue, body rashes, among other flu symptoms, while a few other children also have breathing difficulties.
The third wave of COVID-19 is likely to affect children more severely. Health experts warn parents to take extra precautions and look out for post-COVID complications in children for early intervention.
According to Dr Vidya Vimal, consultant paediatrician, GG Hospital, Thiruvananthapuram, SARS-CoV-2 has undergone mutations and the current strains have been infecting more people, especially children. "A reverse trend is being noticed in the second wave and more youngsters and children are getting infected," she said.
"Earlier, only 10 per cent cases of children getting infected were reported but now 30 per cent more children are getting infected in many states. Though only mild symptoms have been reported, children should be regularly tested for early detection of the virus," she added.
Dr Vidya says, "Post-COVID complications in children can be detected as early as two weeks or even eight weeks after contracting the infection. Parents should immediately consult a paediatrician on observing prolonged symptoms such as fever, vomiting and loose motion. The multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MIS-C) is being commonly found in children aged above 12 years but with early detection, the fatality can be reduced."
Besides COVID-19 infection, the health experts have also raised concerns on other infections such as dengue which is being seen in children. The paediatrician also highlighted that, currently, there are hardly three intensive care units for children in Thiruvananthapuram district functioning at private hospitals and if the need arises, efforts should be made to ramp up medical infrastructure to treat COVID-infected children in government hospitals too.
Dr Vidya says, "Tele-consultations have been made available for parents and more awareness is being created so that follow-up screening of children for post-COVID complications is done. More than eight teleconsultation sessions are done for children in a day."
Of late, children are being tested with different variants and this has led to rising infection rate in the age group of 0 to 15. "As the children stay with their parents, their exposure to viruses is inevitable. However, only mild symptoms have been reported in children," said Dr A Santhosh Kumar, former Kerala Medical Board chairman.
"It is advisable for parents to strictly follow the vaccination schedule of their babies since studies show that COVID-19 vaccine can be administered to children only above 15. Mobile care units need to be opened and more paediatricians should check for early diagnosis of post-COVID complications in children so that a dangerous situation can be avoided," he added.
Vaccine trials among children
Meanwhile, the Drugs Controller General of India has finally approved Bharat Biotech to conduct Covaxin’s Phase 2 and 3 clinical trials among children in the two-18 age group. As part of this, clinical trials will be conducted on 525 healthy volunteers below 18 years of age.