Women's and Children's Health Network
Gavin Wheaton, Director Paediatric Medicine
Published in The Advertiser on 18 May 2020
While many South Australians are eagerly awaiting the easing of COVID-19 restrictions, it is important to keep in mind that some in our community still need to take extra care to safeguard their health. The Women's and Children's Hospital has received many questions on what the spread of the virus means for our most vulnerable children. This includes those who have compromised immunity, who are going through cancer treatment or have chronic illnesses.
The current data suggests that infection is less common and the disease is milder in children than in adults. However severe illness can occur in children and in some cases has been associated with underlying medical conditions. Children with a weakened immune system or chronic illness may find it harder to fight off infection. Known risk factors in adults, such as diabetes and hypertension, may also be risk factors in children.
It is particularly important at this time that children and young people with a chronic illness keep as well as possible. This means maintaining good diet, regular medications and, if over 6 months of age, getting the influenza vaccination. Attendance at planned medical follow up is also very important. Many consultations are currently being done by telehealth (phone or videoconference), but face-to-face reviews and investigations are occurring if necessary.
Parents and carers should also seek assistance without delay if their child is acutely unwell. It is safe to attend the hospital emergency department or GP clinic.
The reopening of schools for term 2 is a very positive development. Previously there was a recommendation for some children with chronic illness or reduced immunity to remain at home. However the situation has changed since prior to the school holidays. With very low levels of COVID-19 in South Australia and many precautions in place, the great majority of these children can now safely attend school. For children with more severe medical conditions or compromised immunity, parents and carers should have a discussion with GP or paediatrician about school attendance. Children with fever or symptoms of a cold should stay at home.
The safety and wellbeing of our children is paramount. We should all follow the government advice on social distancing, self-isolation and hygiene. Wash your hands regularly with soap and water or hand sanitizer for at least 20 seconds. Download the COVIDSafe app to support early notification of possible exposure. When you do your part to stop the spread of COVID-19, you’re not only protecting yourself – you're also helping to keep some of South Australia's most vulnerable children out of harm's way.
last modified: 20 May 2020