This is a scary time with the entire world struggling to fight the novel coronavirus COVID-19 infection. Being a parent, your worries are multiplied due to the lack of concrete information around how this virus spreads and affects children. While the medical community is still trying to find the answers for many unanswered questions, data suggests that while children are susceptible to getting infected, there are rare cases of serious symptoms or deaths. Today, we will look at everything that we know about how the novel coronavirus affects children.
Can children get infected?
Simple answer: Yes.
According to the World Health Organization, the likelihood of children or teenagers becoming infected is the same as people from any other age-group. While we might not see the global data resonating this thought, the primary reason is that most countries are reporting new coronavirus cases based on the number of people who have gone to hospitals due to severe symptoms and some contact tracing-based tests.
As per several international studies, around 1-5 percent of documented global infections come from children. It is also being observed that most children exhibit only mild symptoms and usually get treated at home. While there are some experts that believe that children below the age of 10 years are less likely to get infected, we do not have enough data to back this theory.
Worldwide, an extremely small proportion of children have become seriously ill with COVID-19. In fact, data also suggests that deaths in children due to this virus is extremely rare.
What is the rumour about Kawasaki disease?
In the last few weeks, many countries in Europe and the USA have reported several cases of children affected by an inflammatory illness with symptoms like abdominal pain, high fever, swollen glands, and rashes. These are similar to the symptoms of an extremely rare condition called the Kawasaki disease. While this condition can be lethal if left untreated, children are known to respond well and recover if provided medical assistance in time.
While some scientists believe that these symptoms can be linked to COVID-19, there is more information required before they can come to any conclusion.
Why COVID-19 affects children differently?
As we grow, our immune system becomes stronger against the known threats (viruses, bacteria, etc.) and weaker against the unknown ones. Since children are developing an immune system, they are more likely to fight off new viruses than adults. Even if we turn the pages of history, we will find that during the SARS and MERS epidemics, children were largely unaffected. The concept was similar; those viruses were new to the immune system, making adults more prone to getting infected than children.
What can parents do?
We understand the anxiety and fear a parent is going through right now. After all, this is an unknown enemy and the greatest minds of our times are yet to understand it so that we can defeat it. Until then, keeping our children safe is our prime objective. While taking precautions like practising social distancing, avoiding crowded places, wearing a mask in public places, washing hands regularly, avoiding touching the face with unclean hands, etc. can help keep the virus away, monitoring a child 24×7 is impossible. Despite all the precautions, a parent worrying about the child getting infected is normal.
Also, in the unfortunate event of the child getting infected, the ray of hope is that most children (around 99%) recover within a few days. However, we need to be prepared to manage the high hospitalization costs that the COVID-19 treatment usually entails. For patients who do not need ventilator support, the average cost of treatment for this virus in a private hospital in India is around ₹5-6 lakhs. This can double if a ventilator is required. Therefore, parents need to be financially prepared to handle the costs in such cases.
The IRDAI has mandated all health insurance companies to include coronavirus treatment in the list of ailments covered under the policy. Hence, if you already have health insurance for your family, then talk to the insurer to find out the list of costs the policy will cover and the ones that will be excluded. If you don’t have insurance, then you might want to consider buying health insurance for coronavirus immediately. Leading insurance companies like Tata AIG have started offering health insurance plans for COVID-19. After all, you wouldn’t want to fight an additional battle of arranging for money if someone from your family gets infected.
Remember, COVID-19 is a new kind of coronavirus that we have never encountered before. While the medical community is working around the clock to find a cure or vaccine, we need to do whatever is in our power to keep our family safe. Follow the instructions provided by the government and WHO for prevention and keep a health insurance policy active to manage any unfortunate event. Stay Safe!