Amid the rapid spread of Covid-19 variant JN.1 globally, over 150 cases of the new strain have been detected in India across several cities. Covid JN.1 that has been designated as the variant of interest by WHO has a single mutation compared to Pirola or BA.2.86 variant and may be more transmissible or more adept at immune system evasion. While it’s not clear whether the existing vaccinations will provide full protection from this new sub-variant, vulnerable populations including children must follow preventive measures to prevent spread. From bringing back the masks to hygiene measures, it’s important for parents to educate kids about the virus and preventing its spread. (Also read | Covid’s JN.1 variant in India: Top signs and symptoms to watch out for)
“As the world grapples with the emergence of the latest Covid-19 variant, JN.1, it becomes paramount to reinforce preventive measures, especially for children who may be more vulnerable. These proactive steps can play a crucial role in safeguarding their health amid the spike in cases,” says Dr Neha Rastogi Panda, Consultant – Infectious Disease, Fortis Memorial Research Institute, Gurugram.
“To safeguard children from potential risks, it is advised to avoid crowded places and gatherings. Parents must be vigilant about involving children in group activities. Children aged two and above must wear masks when venturing outdoors. Additionally, the importance of regular hand hygiene to prevent the spread of infections must not be undermined. In case of symptoms such as fever, cough, cold, loose stools, vomiting, headache, body ache, or limping, it is important to go for prompt consultation with a paediatrician for timely and accurate diagnosis and management,” says Dr Shreya Dubey – Consultant – Neonatology & Paediatrics, CK Birla hospital Gurgaon.
TIPS TO PREVENT CHILDREN FROM COVID JN.1 VARIANT
Following Covid-appropriate measures like washing hands with soap and water, social distancing, masking, and avoiding crowds must be followed in all sincerity in order to protect spread of Coronavirus in children. Schools must take required measures and ensure proper ventilation in their vicinity.
“First and foremost, ensuring that children adhere to proper hygiene practices is essential. Encouraging frequent handwashing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds helps reduce the risk of infection. Parents and guardians should also educate their children about the importance of avoiding touching their face, especially the eyes, nose, and mouth, to minimize the chances of virus transmission,” says Dr Panda.
Balanced diet and physical exercise
“The focus should be on home-based healthy food choices. This includes a balanced diet that supports children’s overall well-being. Furthermore, incorporating a small amount of physical exercise in the morning routine also helps. Even a brief activity like jumping for just two minutes can have a positive impact by releasing endorphins, which contribute to strengthening immunity,” says Dr Dubey.
Dr Panda says it’s vital to consistently use face masks, particularly in crowded or enclosed spaces. “Parents should ensure that children wear masks that fit snugly over their noses and mouths and teach them the proper way to put on and remove masks to avoid contamination,” says the expert.
Social distancing remains a key preventive measure. Encouraging children to maintain a safe distance from others, especially in school or public settings, can help mitigate the spread of the virus. Parents should discuss the significance of avoiding close contact, such as hugging or sharing personal items, to reinforce these habits, says Dr Panda.
Promoting activities that allow children to play and learn in well-ventilated spaces reduces the risk of airborne transmission. If possible, open windows or doors to improve ventilation indoors, says Dr Panda.
Vaccination is a cornerstone in the fight against Covid-19. Parents should consult with healthcare providers to stay informed about the latest vaccination guidelines for children, ensuring they receive age-appropriate vaccines and booster shots. This not only protects the child but also contributes to community immunity, adds Dr Panda.
Common symptoms include fever, cough, and difficulty breathing must be paid attention to closely as being vigilant about these indicators can facilitate early detection and intervention.