The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted all aspects of life since its outbreak in China. Children continue to be the most affected as they continue to remain in lockdown within the confines of their homes. However situation of children with Down Syndrome is worse as the closure of their schools and rehabilitation centres has affected their overall health, psychology and social behaviour.
Dr Asia Muhammed al Numaniyah Specialist physician, Child Health Department, Women and Child Health Department, Ministry of Health, said, although people with Down Syndrome may be more susceptible to infection, in general, and respiratory infections, in particular, there is currently no evidence that they are particularly at risk of getting infected with the virus. “However, the pandemic has affected these special category of children in society as their schools and rehabilitation centres are shut, affecting their health, psychology and social behaviour.”
“Being at home all times, has presented several challenges for the parents of children with Down Syndrome. Due to the fact that these children do not practice their daily life activities in an organised manner, limited outdoor activities may lead to behaviours such as hyperactivity, poor attention, stubbornness, not listening to the guidance of parents, etc,” she added.
For assuring the health and safety of infants with Down Syndrome during the current pandemic, Dr Asia said that medical follow-up of a child must be maintained according to the follow-up form attached to the child health record (pink card) for each stage of his growth. This will help in monitoring the health and development of the child and detect any possible health problems through the follow-up clinics as well as maintaining timely immunisation.”
“If the child with respiratory problems is recovering from a respiratory infection, or a viral lung infection, it is necessary to take measures and precautions to protect him/her from the virus inside the home, and to seek healthcare when necessary. Parents of newborn children diagnosed with Down Syndrome are also advised to take correct information from trusted scientific sources,” she added.
According to Dr Asia, among the most important pressures that may confront the families of children with Down Syndrome during this period, is monitoring their children to ensure their physical safety, as children with Down Syndrome love to roam around freely, sometimes leaving the house and not being aware of the risks. “Therefore, care must be taken to ensure that an adult is with the child to ensure their safety and that they are not exposed to any household hazards,” Dr Asia said.
She said that children with Down Syndrome may also suffer from some behavioural problems. “It is necessary to have a specific time for children to go to bed early at night and wake up early. The possibility of setting a schedule that includes some exercise in the morning and the involvement of the rest of the family members will help these children cope better.”
“Adolescents with Down Syndrome may also suffer depression and frustration due to the usual daily routine, causing boredom. So parents are advised to develop a weekly plan, coupled with goals and the participation of the rest of the family so that the child has a fun family atmosphere,” she said.