WITH some classes beginning again this month, parents must be full of questions and concerns for their children’s safety.
The Health and Education Ministries and the National Security Council have already shared school reopening SOPs and guidelines and we appreciate the efforts made to ensure the safety of children while at school.
Preschools and kindergartens resume operations today. As specialists in children’s health, we would like to remind parents that – even in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic – the risk of flu is present year-round in Malaysia.
Both the flu and Covid-19 are respiratory illnesses sharing similar symptoms. However, the flu can be prevented with an annual vaccination. Unfortunately, there is no vaccine available for Covid-19 at the moment.
We would like to remind parents that they can help reduce the spread of diseases by taking these precautions:
> Do not send your child to school if he or she is feeling ill;
> Teach your child about distancing of at least 1m at all times;
> Encourage regular handwashing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds and tell them to use hand sanitiser if soap or water is not available;
> Ensure they practise good cough etiquette – cough into a tissue paper or sleeves;
> Make sure they wear masks;
> Maximise your child’s health and well-being by getting your child and the entire family protected from the flu and other vaccine-preventable diseases.
Bear in mind that there are a lot of new things for young children to learn which can be overwhelming. We recommend that parents start practice sessions at home to familiarise children regarding the correct ways of handwashing and wearing face masks. After all, practice makes perfect!
We hope that parents will play an active role in ensuring their children understand the importance of social distancing and following instructions from school authorities on classroom seating, canteen usage and other dos and don’ts.
Going back to school exposes our children to a higher risk of flu through contact with their fellow classmates, teachers, other school employees and while travelling on school buses or public transport. This is inevitable, as it is difficult to identify potential carriers of the flu.
Hence, protecting schoolchildren against the flu virus will also help to reduce sick days so that they can catch up on their studies after more than three months of staying at home.
In addition, as the flu shows similar symptoms to Covid-19, a flu vaccination would also prevent unnecessary screening for Covid-19, which is not only uncomfortable but an unpleasant experience for children.
As it takes approximately two weeks after flu vaccination for sufficient protective antibodies to develop, we urge parents to vaccinate their children now to protect them from the flu.
Speak to your family physician or your child’s paediatrician for more information.
DR JOANN RAJAH
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