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Last updated on Feb 2nd, 2021 at 02:48 pm

With the news that your pre-schooler can now go back to her Gr R class, you’re no doubt freaking out about her safety as the number of COVID-19 infections continue to spike. You may be wondering just how big the risk is for kids to be infected – even with all the precautions you’ve heard schools have had to put in place.

The good news is that it’s rare.

According to a report from the National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD), children make up less than7% of all reported COVID-19 cases. They’re also less likely to be admitted to intensive care or die from coronavirus, when compared to adults.

They also say that COVID-19 is uncommon in South African children of school-going age, that is children between the ages of 5 and 18. The report also notes that all those children who had contracted the coronavirus, suffered milder symptoms than adults.

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Only 3 children between the ages of 0 and 9 have died of the virus in SA.

This seems to be in line with other studies overseas that have found kids are far less likely to get infected with the virus, including a study by economist Emily Oster of Brown University in the US. To date, she’s conducted an informal analysis of 970 childcare centres in the US that have stayed open since the start of the pandemic, and found that of 27 234 children, only 42 have contracted COVID-19.

The exact reason why kids are less at risk from being infected by COVID-19 than adults, why so few cases have been detected in children, and whether that trend will continue is still unclear at this stage. But it’s still important that you, and the teachers at your kid’s nursery school, work together to protect your little ones from infection and help prevent the virus from spreading.

ALSO SEE: 7 things Early Childhood Development Centres will have to do before they reopen

How to protect your child

According to a report by Dr Aaron Milstone, a paediatrician and an infectious diseases expert at the Johns Hopkins Children’s Centre, “children are exposed to COVID-19 when the virus contacts their eyes, nose, mouth or lungs. This usually occurs when a nearby infected person coughs or sneezes, which releases respiratory droplets into the air and onto the child’s face or nearby surfaces such as tables, food or hands.”

He says the best way to prevent your child from becoming sick with COVID-19 is to avoid exposing her to people who are (or who might be) sick with the virus. “Keep your kids away from crowded areas when possible as well sick people, including family members.”

He offers these 5 tips for parents:

  • Teach your kids to wash their hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds after they’ve gone to the toilet, after they’ve sneezed, coughed or blown their nose, before eating (even snacks) and when they’ve been playing outside. “They can help keep track of time by singing the ABCs, which takes about 20 seconds to finish,” he says.
  • If your child is refusing to wash her hands or becomes very upset when you ask her to, it might help to give her a small reward, such as a sticker, to celebrate each time she washes her hands. Compliment her for doing a really good job while washing her hands. It also helps if you set an example by washing your own hands frequently.
  • Encourage your child to cough and sneeze into her elbow, instead of her hands, and to wash her hands afterwards.
  • After she has blown her nose in a tissue, teach her to immediately throw it away in a dustbin.
  • Remind your child to try not to touch her face. “It might help if she can carry a toy that will keep her hands busy, but just remember that the toy needs to be washed and sanitised regularly,” he suggests.