Keeping your child safe during the pandemic
The latest session of HT City Spotlight, “Protect Your Child’s Health This Monsoon”, throws insights into how to protect our young ones from falling sick in the midst of a pandemic.
A Lancet study from a decade ago reported that India topped the list of countries for the flu virus affecting children. At a time when the health of our little ones, both mental and physical, is top priority for every parent till they get the vaccine, the onset of the monsoon season only makes matters worse.
Wet and humid conditions are the perfect ground for all kinds of infections to thrive and our children are left vulnerable. Not just a concern of parents, several States across the country are also discussing steps to keep seasonal infections like flu at bay even as we battle Covid-19. The reasoning here is that respiratory infections like seasonal flu and Covid-19 have overlapping symptoms and protecting children against the former will help decongest hospitals and avoid unnecessary testing for the latter.
The Ministry of health and Family Welfare says flu vaccination is desirable for children between 6 months and 8 years of age.
The pandemic has been tough for both children and parents, who have been worried about keeping kids occupied and safe from infections. How effective are vaccines and how is it safe to take our children out of the home in the times of a pandemic?
The latest session of HT Spotlight, “Protect Your Child’s Health This Monsoon”, presented by Sanofi Pasteur, brought together Dr Vijay Yewale, consultant pediatrician and past president of the Indian Academy of Pediatrics and Tisca Chopra, an actor, writer, film producer and a mother to discuss at length how we can keep our young ones safe and healthy in the monsoon.
Chopra, who is a doting mother to little Tara, said: “This has been a very trying time for parents. Mentally, to keep the energy of a seven-year-old was extremely difficult with them not going to school. But even more important is the looming thread of multiple infections that come with each changing season. So, at the first opportunity I got her the annual flu shot and told her pediatrician to give me the shot as well. With the looming threat of Covid, we don’t want other things on top of that.”
The seasonal flu shot needs to become an annual affair as an updated vaccine is introduced every year to offer protection against the circulating strains of influenza virus.
“It is very important to protect children against vaccine preventable diseases. I’m sure very few of us have seen small pox and polio is also on its way out. It is only because of vaccines that we have managed to eradicate these diseases. I would make an appeal to each and every parent to spread this message and ensure that their child’s vaccination is up to date,” said Dr Yewale.
But parents are a scared and want to avoid exposing the children to hospitals. As a result, a lot of little children have skipped vaccinations due as per their schedules.
“Covid is only two years old but flu has been there for several decades. The first flu pandemic occurred almost 100 years ago. Children are extremely vulnerable, and flu can lead to very serious infection in children less than five years of age. Some children who also suffer from chronic diseases and are at a severe risk of contracting influenza,” Dr Yewale added.
“Flu vaccine is a safe and efficacious. At the most, the child may have little pain at the site of infection and occasionally, a child can get fever. The antibodies take two-four weeks to kick in so if you plan to vaccinate your child against flu, now is the time,” he added.
Chopra asked Dr Yewale a very pertinent question. Should parents of small children also get these shots as an added safeguard? “In the western world, it is a universal recommendation. As young adults, you have a benign case of flu but the risk increases as you age. Flu can be disastrous for those with chronic illnesses like Diaebetes and Asthma,” he answered.
In these unprecedented times, keep your children protected. Till a pediatric Covid-19 vaccine is tested and approved for India, let’s make sure that all their other shots are up to date and the flu vaccine is also taken before and around the monsoons. Doctors recommend that with due precautions, it is safe to meet a pediatrician and get the immunizations up to date. Parents can ask for combination vaccines that protect the child from multiple diseases with a single shot. This is especially critical for babies who are less than 1 year old to protect them from such as diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, hepatitis B, poliomyelitis and H. influenzae type b scheduled at 6-week, 10-week and 14-week of life and need to be given as soon as possible.
“Take care of the physical health of your child but also look into their mental health. Try to involve them in routine household activities, talk to them, play with them, have fun corners around the house, connect them with their friends on zoom and celebrate small occasions. Try to motivate your grownup children to take up an online hobby class or environmental safety, gardening or on pets. Vaccination is the birth right of every child so let’s give them their rights,” said Dr Yewale.
Sanofi Pasteur is a world leader in vaccines and has given us this opportunity to understand the value of the flu vaccination for children. For more information on protection from flu visit: https://www.bewiseimmunise.sanofipasteur.in/preventwhatcanbeprevented