Paediatrician

As children around the country celebrate the reopening of beaches, pools, restaurants and other public recreation spaces their parents should remain vigilant about reducing their risk of exposure to the Covid-19 virus.

So said paediatrician Dr Tricia Marie Choya when she spoke to the Express via phone on Friday about the best practices for children as the country attempts to return to near full function.

Choya, who works at the ABC Paediatrics in St Augustine, said parents need to start by educating their children about the importance of keeping their masks on, washing their hands often and not touching their faces.

All children over the age of two years should be outfitted with masks when leaving their home, she said. Children under two, she says, should, however, not wear masks as they tend to retain carbon dioxide.

“Educate your kids, but not in a way that makes them scared and anxious. Teach them about hand hygiene. Staying away from touching surfaces and properly disposing of tissues they used.

Talk to them about not touching their faces. Children wearing masks tend to fidget and touch their masks. They should only touch their masks to remove it and should wash their hands before doing so,” Choya said.

Making proper

hygiene the norm

Dr Choya said proper hygiene should become the norm for children moving forward both in and out of a pandemic.

“Teach them about the danger of germs in general and not just Covid-19. This should be reinforced daily. Every child that is old enough to use it should have their own hand sanitiser. But be careful with younger kids as they might want to taste it. The general practice for all children when they get home should be to wash their hands and take a bath. This should be their norm from now on,” Choya said.

As for parents worried about visiting pools and beaches with their children Choya said these are both safe as there is no proof that Covid can be spread in water.

She maintained, however, that hand washing and masks remain important and “of course they need to maintain social distancing”.

“Pools are okay as there is no documented proof that the virus can be spread in a pool. The same goes for beaches.When dining out however, opt for outdoor dining. Indoor dining is not advised for children,” Choya said.

Secondary Entrance Assessment (SEA) pupils returning to class in August should be all equipped with necessary protective gear and tools, she said. Teachers, she said, should also reinforce best practices daily.

“They should all be wearing face masks and desks should be spaced out six feet apart. Teachers could also designate times to wash their hands and make this part of their normal schedule. Discussions should also be had in the classroom about Coronavirus and the importance of maintaining proper hygiene,” Choya advised.

Focus on proper nutrition

Nutritionist Kimberly De Vertueil, meanwhile, says while no special meal plans are needed for children returning to school it’s equally important for parents to consistently serve well balanced meals in order to meet their children’s dietary requirements.

“No special meal plans are needed for children going back out to school in August. Parents should strive to provide balanced, nutritious meals at all times. This should include a variety of items from all the food groups.

Parents should make sure to always offer as much fresh fruits and vegetables which will provide many vitamins, minerals and antioxidants to support a healthy immune system,” De Vertueil told the Express via WhatsApp on Friday.

De Verteuil, who works out of a doctor’s office in Woodbrook, said there are a number of immune boosting nutrients parents should try to include in their children’s diet. The experienced nutrition and well-being clinician also runs a personal private practice in Diego Martin. There she sees diabetic, high blood pressure, obese and post-bariatric (weight-loss) surgery patients daily.

“A few immune boosting nutrients parents can try to include daily are: Beta-carotene: found in sweet potato, leafy greens like spinach, mango, carrots, broccoli and tomato. Vitamin C: found in citrus fruits, melon, peppers, tomato and broccoli,” De Verteuil advised.

De Verteuil advised parents to also prioritise water over sugary drinks to keep insulin levels low and ensure their children are well hydrated.

“Parents should also ensure that their children stay well hydrated and that they get most of their hydration from water and should keep soft drinks and juices to a minimum. A good night’s sleep is also important for a healthy immune system,” De Verteuil concluded.

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