Is your child experiencing these health symptoms? See the doctor immediately.

This article was written for The Asian Parent by Dr Mohana at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic in March 2020.

The news of a 12-year-old boy, a Year 1 student from Raffles Institution (RI) that was confirmed to have COVID-19 infection before his birthday, have left many parents worried about the health of their own children, among which include flu symptoms in kids.

In light of such a situation, a paediatrician from Parkway East Hospital have spoken up regarding children’s symptoms, according to Shin Min news.

Children’s cases of COVID-19

Of 44,672 confirmed COVID-19 cases in China as of Feb 11 2020, 416 cases (0.9%) were children less than 10 years old, according to Characteristics of the Important Lessons from the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Outbreak in China,The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).  549 cases (1.2%) were reported to be older children and adolescents aged 10 to 19 years.

According to paediatrician Mohana D/O Rajakulendran—mum of two children—a large percentage of child patients exhibit the following symptoms:

  • Dry cough
  • Lethargy
  • Nasal congestion
  • Stomachache
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Fever (in half of the cases)

It was also reported that there were no obvious symptoms among some of the patients that were tested for the virus. Majority of the patients typically recover within one to two weeks after experiencing the virus.

One of the common symptoms in children is a runny nose. Flu symptoms in kids are similar to what is experienced during a coronavirus infection.

Parents might not be able to differentiate between the symptoms of COVID-19 in children as compared to regular virus types as they are similar in nature.

As such, the most important thing is to bring your child to the doctor as soon as you witness these symptoms:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Reduced appetite or drinking
  • Lethargy / sleepiness
What happens if a child is suspected of contracting COVID-19?

The doctor will assess your child and may suggest doing a chest X-ray if there are any concerns about COVID-19 or pneumonia. Your doctor may then either refer you to the nearest paediatric facility for assessment with a swab for diagnosis for COVID-19 if necessary. If your child is well, he or she may be discharged home with advice to remain at home till the swab results are out. If your child is unwell, he or she may be admitted to an isolation room in hospital to receive further treatment while awaiting the swab test results. One parent is usually allowed to accompany the child if an admission is required.

How to talk to your child about the coronavirus

Fear often comes from the lack of understanding or knowledge, and for kids who are naturally curious while trying to make sense of the world, the coronavirus can be confusing and scary for them. However, it does not have to be blown out of proportion. While cases are on the rise in Singapore, as well as in other countries, it is still relatively well-contained.

Dr. Rajakulendran assures parents that they need not worry excessively as a majority of children with COVID-19 only have mild disease. She would also like to remind everyone that the Ministry of Health has advised those with flu-like symptoms to see a doctor while wearing a mask.

After the doctor has granted your sick leave, it is advised to rest at home and avoid heading outdoors to prevent the possible spread of any virus, including COVID-19.

“The most crucial point is to play the role of parents well to stop the spread of the virus, especially during this outbreak,” said Dr. Rajakulendran.

Our tips to help you navigate this with your child
  • Acknowledge your child’s fears, if any, no matter how small they are
  • Offer assurance in a timely manner such as telling him or her that it is okay to have these feelings, and that you will work it through with him or her
  • Help your child understand more about the virus and ways to tackle it together
  • Answer any questions your child might have to the best of your ability, and not cover up the facts
  • Be a role model, and practice proper hygiene at home and in public spaces
  • Give your child control; let them write down what he/she is grateful for (it helps as a form of distraction from the negative)

Source: Characteristics of the Important Lessons from the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Outbreak in China. JAMA. E-pub Feb 24, 2020.

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