School closure affecting kids’ health, say medical experts

School closure affecting kids’ health, say medical experts

With schools reopening on Tuesday, medical experts are divided on whether the timing was right given the ground-realities.

On the one hand, the third wave has not abated and the number of Covid cases remains high. On the other hand, experts are unanimous on the physical, as well as psychological, detriments to children staying at home, which they have been suffering from for over two years now.

Secretary of the Indian Academy of Paediatrics Dr E. Arjun, from Apoorva hospital, said the academy was in favour of resuming classes as the health issues they are prone to by being at home were worse than the risk of contracting Covid. “We are seeing that children are now prone to lifestyle diseases like obesity and gadget addiction while staying at home. Children may be spreaders of Covid but they themselves won’t suffer from it much,” he said.

Dr M. Surendranath, HoD, paediatric department in Vijay Marie Hospital, Khairatabad, echoed similar views. He said a majority of children at home were not getting any physical exercise, which was essential, and were also suffering from psycho-social issues. He added that Omicron variant was yet to show any serious infections among kids. “However, if a child has cold, cough or fever, then he or she should not attend school until recovery,” he said.

Meanwhile, Dr Diana Monteiro, director of Hyderabad Academy of Psychology, is not so sure about reopening schools right away. “I agree they should reopen but it seems dangerous to do it when we are hearing about so many cases,” she said. She said potential consequences were far worse in instances where a child has lost a parent to the virus.

Acknowledging the detrimental impact that not attending schools has on social skills, Dr Monteiro suggests that while at home, parents should ensure that kids interact with others of their age, at least via WhatsApp video calls.

Psychology teacher and counsellor at Global Indian International School, Dr Eswari Vadlamudi, said the intermittent closure of schools and lack of social contacts were taking a toll on the emotional health of children. “We should understand that the pandemic will remain for a while, and we should learn how to adjust to it,” she added.