New COVID-19 strain: Kids more prone to new variants, say UAE doctors

Young children are highly susceptible to the new strains of the Covid-19 and parents must avoid taking them to crowded places, doctors in the UAE have warned.

While the WHO and UAE health authorities’ guidelines specify that children under the age of three need not wear face masks, several older children are also often seen without masks in public places. “This is a dangerous trend as parents also forget to teach kids proper hand hygiene practices,” say doctors.

Dr Shahid Gauhar, specialist neonatologist and paediatric with Prime Hospital, said crowded places are not safe for children as well as adults. However, young children are highly susceptible to the new strain of the virus compared to the previous ones, explained Dr Gauhar.

“In the UK, it is reported the almost 100 children are admitted every week in the hospital with very different presentation previous the strain was mostly restricted to upper respiratory tract infection,” he said.

Dr Sarla Kumari, internal medicine specialist at Canadian Specialist Hospital, said: “There are lots of Covid-19 strains in existence around the globe, but experts are most concerned about the handful: the UK or British variant (B117), the South Africa variant (501Y.V2 or B.1.351), the Brazil variant (P.1) and the California variant (CAL.20C).”

“In the first wave of Covid-19, for reasons that we still don’t know, Covid-19 was more likely to infect adults than children. But in the past two to three months in the US, there has been a significant increase in the percentage of children diagnosed with Covid-19,” said Dr Kumari.

“At this point, it doesn’t seem that the new strains have anything to do with this – but eventually, they could. We’re keeping a close eye on it. Again, for the most part, the new strains do not appear to lead to more serious illness for the individuals they infect, including young people and children,” said the doctor.

Dr Praveen Sreekanthalal, a specialist general paediatric at NMC Specialty Hospital in Abu Dhabi, said: “It is not safe to take kids to crowded places since the chances of getting infected are high. Even though children may be asymptomatic they can transmit the infection to others who are high the risk for developing severe infections.”

Kids above 3 years must take all Covid precautions

According to the World Health Organisation, children three years and below should not wear a mask but children above three-years should but apart from wearing a mask rest of the precautions like social distancing, hand washing, avoiding physical contact and other measures should be applied for them as well.

“In general, children aged five years and under should not be required to wear masks. This advice is based on the safety and overall interest of the child and the capacity to appropriately use a mask with minimal assistance,” Dr Sarla Kumari, internal medicine specialist at Canadian Specialist Hospital

Children with underlying health conditions such as cystic fibrosis or cancer should wear a medical mask in consultation with their medical providers. “There may be local requirements for children aged five years and under to wear masks, or specific needs in some settings, such as being physically close to someone who is ill. In these circumstances, if the child wears a mask, a parent or other guardian should be within direct line of sight to supervise the safe use of the mask,” she added.

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