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Explaining to children what is happening and encouraging them to go out safely – key factors to helping them cope with lockdown

Posted on 28-05-2020

The outbreak of coronavirus and the consequences it has had on the lives of people is also affecting children in different ways, and they represent a segment of society the requires particular care to prevent health issues in the future.

As lockdown begins to ease, Hospiten Roca pediatrician, Dr. Hilario Sosa, recommends parents avoid forcing those children who are afraid or unsure, “explain to them simply what is happening and encourage them to go out a little every day, make plans to things with them” and consult a pediatrician about “any changes they notice in their children to assess the situation”.

Before going out with the children Dr. Sosa says it is important to remind them of the safety measures they must follow, like using a mask whenever the child accepts doing so – not all children do, and hand hygiene using sanitizer or washing with soap and water. The use of gloves is not recommended because it gives a false sense of safety and may lead to bad habits.

In addition, the doctor reminds us not to be complacent about vaccinations. “Right now, we must be very careful to keep to the vaccination and check-ups schedule for our children, especially in children under 15 months, to protect them from diseases like chicken pox or measles”. Dr. Sosa also points out that it is “completely safe” to go to the pediatrician’s office. “At Hospiten, we have set up care circuits to reduce waiting times before going into the office and we put in place measures to separate and disinfect the different areas to prevent infection”.

Special care with mental health

The Hospiten Roca specialist explains that we find ourselves in a situation that is completely new to all of us and little by little we are seeing cases where we must pay particular attention to the impact caused on the children’s mental health.

“Generally, there are two types of effect that are cause for concern: sleep and eating disorders, and in the Canary Islands, the rate of obesity in children means this should not be ignored and the onset of phobias or somatic symptom disorders (SSD), or physical symptoms whose cause may lie in a psychological origin, which may lead to more serious problems if not treated correctly”, Dr. Sosa says, but adds that the aim is not to scare people, but to make sure parents are alert to be able to act as soon as the first symptoms appear and help children by preventing long-term problems.

The change in routines, being exposed to an excess of information and the perception of stress or fear around them affects some children who develop insomnia, fear, nervous tics, irritability, refusing to eat or phobias they did not have before.

Regarding the different effects on different age groups, Dr. Sosa describes three age groups in which different effects have been observed.

At 3 years of age, we begin to see eating disorders, increased irritability, more tantrums and loss of developmental gains, like bladder/bowel control. At 6 or 7 years of age, we begin to see phobias, anxiety or tics. At 14, we are seeing quite the opposite. Fear seems to disappear, except in children with some health issues, and they want to be in touch with their peers. So, Dr. Sosa advises parents to be strict and insist on the importance of following the health safety measures imposed.

“It is important parents consult us if they notice any symptoms or if they have any questions about all this. At the moment, we pediatricians must be closer than ever to parents to help them help their children as much as possible”, states the doctor.

With 50 years’ experience, Hospiten has twenty private medical-hospital centers in Spain, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Jamaica and Panama, attends over 1,700,000 patients a year from all over the world and employs more than 5,000 people.