Intensify education on COVID-19 for young people

BY: Rebecca Kwei
Adhere to the COVID-19 safety protocols

Youngsters should be encouraged to continue to adhere to the infection prevention protocols of COVID-19 because the virus is still around and children are not immune to it.

A Paediatric Pulmonologist of the Department of Child Health of the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital, Dr Sandra Kwarteng Owusu, who gave the advice, said although it was possible to get infected by the virus in schools, the focus should be on education and raising the level of awareness of the existence of COVID-19.

The Ghana Health Service and the Ghana Education Service last week indicated that 20 COVID-19 cases have been recorded in schools since the reopening.

She said there was the need for more data and science before anyone could make a call for schools to close  down.

There are many factors that need to be considered in that regard.

For instance, Dr Kwarteng Owusu said, if random samples from schoolchildren were taken and it was clearly known how many schoolchildren were for example asymptomatic carriers or symptomatic, it may help to inform any decision that can be taken by the authorities.

She said until that had been done there was the need to unrelentingly create awareness of COVID-19 especially when there was such widespread community spread already involving both adults and children.

She also urged parents to continue to monitor their children. Every child must be considered on a case by case basis.

For children with underlying disease conditions, parents need to speak to health experts who could provide advice based on the condition that child has.

In some cases it may be helpful that some children be given a break from school.

Dr Kwarteng Owusu observed that sometimes when children are going to school in the morning, they have their face masks on but remove them on their way back home.

Therefore, she said there was the need to educate and encourage youngsters to keep the mask on at all times.

She said parents had a responsibility to ensure that children who were not well do not report to school but rather take them to the nearest health facility or call for help based on the COVID-19 guidelines.

“The general health seeking behaviour of every parent for their child should be much higher at this time,” she said.

She said a lot also depended on parents being aware that the symptoms of COVID-19 were many and varied and that in addition to fever, cough, runny nose, difficulty in breathing - which were the initial symptoms, children may also have loss of sense of smell, diarrhoea or vomiting, abdominal pain and even red eyes.

“Every parent whose child goes to school should also be alert to other disease conditions apart from COVID-19. We need to remember that the signs and symptoms of COVID-19 may also go for other viral infections.

In addition, difficulty in breathing may represent an asthma attack or pneumonia,” she said.

Dr Kwarteng Owusu said parents could also keep their own thermometers or simple tools that would alert them that the child was unwell so they could seek help early.

She said teachers could also help by further checking if the children are well when they receive them in school.

They could also encourage the children to observe the protocols while in school such as hand washing hygiene and keeping the mask on.

When a child is noted to be unwell in school, the teachers and the school health teams can work together to isolate the child and then inform the family.

However, she said in trying to isolate a sick child, teachers need to be sensitive about stigma especially, because the child may not necessarily have COVID-19.

Dr Kwarteng Owusu said even if a child had COVID-19 there was no need to stigmatise the child.

This, she said, was a very important issue which needed a lot of care to be taken to deal with.

“Let us all work together as a team; children, parents, teachers and health experts. We can beat COVID-19 together,” she added.