8th November 2021 heralded the return of many of our nation’s children to school – a move met with a collective sigh of relief (and some anxiousness!) on the part of their parents. While we cannot stress the importance that physical school plays in the continued development of our children, we understand that many families out there remain nervous about the uncertainties involved, particularly as we are still battling Covid-19 in Malaysia.
makchic recently ran an Ask the Expert session ahead of the planned reopening of schools, wherein our medical expert, Head of the Paediatric Department at Ara Damansara Medical Centre, and Consultant Paediatrician at Baby & Beyond Child Specialist Clinic in Publika, Dr Rakhee Yadav, lent her thoughts to the questions raised by concerned parents.
Here were some of our expert’s key takeaways:
Back to School Jitters
I want my child to return to school but am worried they will fall ill! What can I do?
Returning to school has taken on a new meaning and a new set of worries for parents and caregivers during the Covid-19 pandemic. As parents, we should ensure our children are healthy and prepared physically, as well as mentally, to go back to school.
Prep them and talk to them about their plan and concerns of returning to school. Don’t forget to update their childhood immunisations and include the Pneumococcal and Influenza vaccine as well. If they are eligible for the Covid-19 vaccine, then complete both doses as soon as you can. Do a “well child” check up with their paediatrician or doctor to make sure you did not miss out on any developmental or physical issues.
How accurate are Covid-19 self-test saliva kits? How often should I test the kids once they start school?
The accuracy of each kit varies with different brands. It is important to use only kits that are recognised and have been approved by the Medical Device Authority (MDA) of MOH. There are currently 58 test kits (as of 6th November 2021) that have received conditional approval on the consensus of the Covid-19 test kit Expert Committee.
It is important for us to note that all these test kits are for screening purposes only. They are not diagnostic. All test results will need a further confirmation using the Covid-19 RT-PCR test if required. There are no guidelines as to how often one should get tested, and this may also differ with different schools.
However, studies have shown that testing 1 to 2 times per week is ideal to detect early infections. However, if tested more than 2 weeks apart, this tends to lead to higher chance of missing out on catching the infection at an early stage.
How do I reassure my anxious child about returning to school?
Watch the video below for Dr Rakhee’s tips:
Boosting Immunity and Keeping our Kids Safe
Should kids below 12 to take the influenza/flu vaccine as a precaution while awaiting their Covid-19 vaccinations?
Yes, I would definitely advise anyone who is eligible to take both the Influenza and the Pneumococcal vaccine as they are both recommended vaccines. Influenza protects against Influenza illness and Pneumococcal vaccine protects against Pneumococcal illness.
However, there was a recent study that has shown that the risk of severe Covid-19 in children who have taken both these vaccines is reduced. The dosage for each vaccine varies but Influenza vaccine is an annual vaccine. Please discuss with your paediatrician regarding the recommended dose for your child.
Currently, only children above 12 years old can get the Covid-19 vaccine. So while waiting for the younger age groups, get yourself and your family vaccinated with these vaccines.
Is it ok to delay normal childhood vaccinations because I’d rather avoid clinics and hospitals?
At this point, we are moving back into the new norm and no longer in the height of the Delta wave of the pandemic. There is no need to delay your vaccination appointments. In fact, it is better to come now before the school rush begins in December.
Remember: the ventilation in hospitals has a much better filter system and most clinics have taken extra steps to ensure the safety of their patients and themselves by ensuring that proper ventilation and air exchanges occur in their premises.
Do those vitamin gummies really help boost kids’ immunity?
Generally, children should get all their required nutrition from a healthy, balanced diet. This includes a variety of food groups (carbohydrate, proteins, vitamins, minerals and health fats) at regular intervals.
If for some reason they are unable to get a balanced nutrition, sometimes a supplement may be beneficial for a short duration, until they are back on track with a healthy diet. These supplements should be tailored to the needs of a particular child and not just something we need to take regularly.
Other than the flu vaccine and Vitamin C, what else we do to safeguard our kids’ health?
Watch as Dr Rakhee shares 3 key tips:
Managing Screen Time
My child has gotten more reliant on screen time during the lockdown! How do I strike the right balance?
During the lockdown, online schooling has become the new norm. Almost all classes have reverted to an online platform. It is not easy to balance between the right amount of screen time, but parents are encouraged to allow some screen time in moderation. However, too much screen time has been linked to obesity, behavioural problems, irregular sleeping patterns, impaired academic performance and violence.
The recommended screen time according to the American Academy of Paediatrics (AAP) is:
- <2 years old no screen time unless it is for video chatting with a parent/caregiver;
- 2-5 years old only for online learning purposes (try to limit to <2 hours per day); and
- above 6 for educational purposes.
Here are some ways we can reduce screen time:
1) Eliminate background TV
If the TV is turned on, it’s likely to draw your child’s attention. If you’re not actively watching a show, turn it off.
2) Keep TVs, smartphones and computers out of the bedroom
Children who have electronics in their bedrooms watch more than children who don’t have these in their bedrooms.
3) Monitor your child’s screen time and the websites he or she is visiting by keeping TVs and computers in a common area in your house
Encourage screen time rules to create responsible viewing. Watch with your children, so you can limit to educational programmes. Children tend to mimc their parents, so be mindful of your own screen time usage.
4) Do not eat in front of a screen
Allowing your child to eat or snack in front of electronic devices increases his or her screen time. The habit also encourages mindless munching, which can lead to weight gain. Finally, it is important to talk to your children about safe viewing to ensure they come to you or talk to you if they experience cyber-bullying, or are in a situation that may be compromising for a child.
Managing Our Own Emotions
My child isn’t listening to me and I feel like I’m getting angry all the time! How can I manage this better?
Watch the following video to learn how to keep calm and carry on:
My child has put on a lot of weight! How do I ease him back to physical activities?
Dr Rakhee shares her advice in the video below:
We hope this has helped to relieve some of your concerns about the return to schools, #makchicmumtribe. As always, take care and stay safe!