Pandemic, a health hazard for kids
Dr Mudita Dhingra
While the COVID era has resulted in a major health crisis, globally, prolonged closure of schools is also one of the most disruptive forces for the school going kids. For almost a span of six months since the inception of COVID 19, the schools have been shut down, restricting the children in their homes with limited indoor and outdoor activities.
Along with providing academic education, schools are a place for their social interaction and physical activities etc, and with the withdrawal from the daily behaviour to sudden isolation has the tendency to raise undue stress among the school going kid’s life.
In the current scenario, the school going child spends majority of his/her time in front of Computer screen for online classes or TV/Mobile for recreational activities. There is limited scope of outdoor plays, park visits and with the recent rise of air pollution in North children are further restricted in four walls of their homes.
In addition, mothers are cooking delicious, high calorie sweets and food at homes very frequently to satisfy their child’s boredom. This has led to excessive gain in weight in children in a short span of time.
Recent data suggests that more severe cases of COVID-19 among the paediatric population is observed among kids suffering from childhood obesity. Excessive fat, dyslipidemia, high blood pressure and Insulin resistance as well as poor nutrient intake (Obese malnourished) can cause inflammation in various organs of body which makes the prognosis guarded.
Parents and health care professionals need to be aware that poor nutrition and excessive consumption of empty calories through intake of Cold drinks, readymade juices and energy dense food can give rise to insulin resistance and make a child prediabetic or diabetic within a short span.
Paediatric obesity is one of the least known ailments among kids which can attribute to long term complications in the future. Processed foods is one of the leading cause of obesity in children and that causing increasing life style diseases in India like diabetes and hypertension. We should encourage more home-based diet with more emphasis on physical activity and yoga. Parents should also understand the need of optimal weight according to their kids’ height and age
Engage your kids for a healthy lifestyle
Maintain a daily routine – Sleeping late will encourages extra snacking which is often unhealthy and energy dense. In addition, it disrupts sleep wake cycle which leads to disordered eating. Sleeping at 10 PM helps children to maintain their growth in the best way.
Limit intake of refined sugar and drink plenty of water throughout the day
Eat clean, healthy, homemade food – Add healthy fats like Nuts and seeds , Minerals and vitamins through fruits and vegetables and include whole grains. Also don’t forget to take Vitamin D supplementation as suggested by your doctor
Follow healthy plate method (25% plate – salad, 25 % non-starchy vegetable, 25 % Carbohydrates (Roti or rice) and 25 % lean protein)
Restrict the amount of packed food entering the houses, it holds true as we are in festive season. Out of sight means out of mind. Instead keep healthy snacks ready like makhaanas, chana, peanuts.
No screen time while eating – Restrict total non-academic screen time to less than 2 hours.
Include daily 1 hour of moderately vigorous activity (Can be indoor activity like skipping, freestyle dance, and aerobics) and be active throughout the day.
At last, focus on right habits and not restrictions.
Since COVID 19 is still here to stay for some time, apart from social isolation and all necessary precautions, children must not fall into the trap of long-term implications of this pandemic. Adapting healthy eating habits and regular physical activity is going to go long way in a child’s life and vice versa also holds true.
(Dr Mudita Dhingra is a Consultant Pediatric and Adolescent Endocrinologist, Radhakishan Hospital, Kurukshetra)