Pandemic disrupted our daily lives at home and at work. As we adjust our lives during COVID-19, we often thought about a new normal. While we are adjusting to the way things are right now, it is important to keep in mind the health of our children. In this episode, Dr. Foo Chee Hoe, a paediatrician from Dr. Foo Children Specialist Clinic, will share some tips on how we as parents, can help our children to adjust to the new normal. Q1: Are children truly at lower risk of getting COVID-19 compared to adults? Dr. Foo: In observation of the cases in 2020, it seems to be true that way. The children have lower infection rate; but also this could be due to school closure and the parents are very proactive in protecting their children from going out. There\u2019s also less diagnostic testing among the children, especially the asymptomatic ones. However, it is true that children tend to have less risk of severe illnesses from this infection. Q2: What are the new COVID-19 strains and they do infect children more easily? Dr Foo: Yes, there will be new strains just like any other viruses as they make copies of themselves repeatedly, as they spread far and wide, as long as we a give chance for them to spread; as they spread, there will be mutation. There will be variations of the genetic material. So, sometimes, the variation can weaken them, making them less easy to spread. But sometimes it can strengthen them, and make them easier to spread. So, since January to February this year, we have encountered the U.K. strain, the South African strain and the Brazilian strain. And studies have shown that they tend to spread more easily, unfortunately. And based on the data in the U.S., it seems that this time with the new variants, there is a bigger percentage of cases of children. Compared to last year during the early days of the pandemic, there is a bigger chunk of percentage of cases involving children. Image Credit: npr.org Q3: What are the psychological effects of COVID-19 on our children? Dr. Foo: The pandemic itself can cause so much disruption to what it means to have a normal life. It disrupts schooling, it disrupts interactions with friends and groups, it will really destroy their normal growth and development in the aspects of social interactions and social skills. And there was this lockdown, or self-quarantine, which was imposed on them. This would cause boredom, restlessness, irritability and even more anxiety. We won\u2019t be surprised if we see behavioural issues and attention-seeking behaviour, which will happen. And then, unfortunately, there\u2019s also a rise in cases of child abuse during the lockdown period. So, this is a very unfortunate period and we should really study all these factors before just deciding on always choosing lockdown over other methods to contain the spread of the virus. And children who are infected with COVID may have a stigma stuck on them. They are embarrassed when they meet with their friends; they get teased or they\u2019re labelled to be a COVID patient by their friends who are not yet mature. So, all these causes unnecessary stress and anxiety, and that's also related to peer pressure. Q4: How can I help to reduce my children\u2019s anxiety and worry about COVID-19? Dr. Foo: Parents should lead by example. If we are restless and anxious and are not being cool, and grumpy and hostile in front of them, they may be impacted. They may be affected negatively, you know, and they may mimic us or be depressed by our behaviour. So, we should take the opportunity. Find more time at home to spend with your kids, to play with them, to have good conversations with them. Talk to them about the pandemic, what it means to them, what are their thoughts about it, try to reassure them, give them assurance that things will be better. Give them hope, go through the history of past pandemics, so that they can learn that we can be in control. We have surpassed pandemics before, teach them about the biology of this virus and also the history along the way, so that they can get a better sense of control and what to expect in the future. Instead of too much fake news and too much social media, and YouTube and all that - unnecessary information which can actually make them more confused. Q5: How can I keep my child safe when we return to the new normal? Dr. Foo: You can teach them to have a good safe habit such as: \thand hygiene \tsafe distancing \tbeing comfortable with the mask \thave a good cough etiquette \thow to sneeze and cough properly without spreading to others \thelping them to understand the reason for limiting the number of people in groups \thelp them to appreciate why it is important not to overcrowd a certain place And also, it is very important is to help them to build a good immune system, give them a good healthy diet and a good healthy lifestyle. Q6: Does food play a major role in building immunity? Dr. Foo: Yes, certainly! Food plays an important part because we are what we eat. Food is medicine, food is our fuel. It is the source of nutrients that will sustain us and it is also what will boost our immune system. So, in the form of antioxidants, the vitamins, the probiotics, which is all very important for a healthy gut microbiome; the development of a very healthy gut microbiota, which is essential for a well-regulated immune system. Q7: What are other factors that can affect my child\u2019s immunity and how can I help to elevate them? Dr. Foo: Besides food, our lifestyle would also affect our immunity. For example, if we do not sleep well. Poor sleep hygiene would cause lack of sleep. It will not be good for your immune system. Psychological stress, being unhappy, stressful and anxious all the time\u2014these will impact negatively on our immune system. It is important to have a positive environment in our homes. So, it\u2019s our role as parents to be supportive and attentive to them. Now, back to our understanding of the gut-brain axis (GBA), our mood and psychological stress can be elevated by a healthy gut microbiome because of its influence on the neural activity. And the good bacteria, the probiotics, will help when it comes to this. Q8: Can water consumption boost my child\u2019s immunity? Dr. Foo: You see, the first line of defence, our skin, the tear ducts, the mucous, the salivary glands are all dependant on good hydration. Since we recognise probiotics as an important part of our immune system, and also our psychological health, I think a cultured milk drink with probiotics is a good option. https:\/\/www.youtube.com\/watch?vEnfHwwPmk_0 Win 20 bottles of FREE VITAGEN\u00ae You have a chance to WIN 20 bottles of free VITAGEN\u00ae and a cooler bag when you answer a simple question, tag 3 friends and share Motherhood's Facebook post. Wait no more! Get your VITAGEN\u00ae today! Meanwhile, stay tuned for more AskMeDoctor! episodes on Motherhood.com.my and our Facebook page.