Immunity boosters for children against COVID-19 not advisable, say doctors – The New Indian Express

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Express News Service

BENGALURU: With parents scouting for immunity boosters for their children in the hope of keeping Covid-19 at bay, pharmacies have seen a spike in demand. But experts warn that it could do more harm than good to those aged below five — including inducing conditions like arthritis and rheumatism at an earlier stage in life.

With the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, many worried parents have been asking health professionals for immunity-boosting supplements, like vitamin C, D and zinc supplements for children. But experts say a well-balanced meal for children between 0-5 years of age is more than enough to give them adequate immunity. 

They warn that apart from early arthritis and rheumatism, children can be vulnerable to side-effects like severe mouth ulcers, fever, disturbance in growth, red eyes and muscle pain. Children should not have lesser or higher immunity, but adequate immunity is what is important, the point out. 

Children need to Eat healthy, play more: Docs

Dr Chandrika Bhat, Consultant- Pediatric Rheumatology, at Rainbow Children’s Hospital, Marathahalli, said too much importance is being given to the immune system based on information accessed from the internet following the outbreak of the pandemic.

“There is evidence to suggest that excessive immunity can, on the contrary, be harmful. This means that a dysfunctional or an overdrive of the immune system can result in damage. For children, until the age of about five, the immune system is inexperienced. Giving excess immunity boosters will only harm the body. There is no scientific evidence that immunity boosters help in preventing infection. Also, an excessively strong immune system can start attacking our own body cells wherein vital organs can get damaged.”

She, however, said children with autism usually resist fruits, which are required for vitamin intake. Hence, they can be prescribed some supplements.

But not every child requires it.

“The immune system of children attacking their own body can lead to symptoms such as prolonged fever, rashes, joint pain with swelling, muscle pain, redness of the eyes and lips, oral ulcers, weight loss or disturbances in growth. These should alert parents about the possibility of a rheumatological illness,” said Dr Chandrika. Dr Anuradha Vinod, Consultant- Paediatrics, Manipal Hospitals, Old Airport Road, said the pandemic saw a lot of people, including children, taking supplements.

She said she had come across cases where children have developed severe mouth ulcers after consuming vitamin C supplements, whereas citrus fruits would have been enough.

“The main supplements taken by children were vitamins C and D, and zinc, as many children were indoors. Vitamin D supplementation for daily requirement is useful. But we recommend children to improve their diet with balanced nutrition. Improving intake of water, physical activity and adequate sleep are more beneficial than taking supplements which have their own side effects.” she explained.

Dr Supraja Chandrasekar, Consultant–Pediatric Intensivist at Columbia Asia Referral Hospital, Yeshwanthpur, said vitamins are of two types: fat soluble and water-soluble.

“The water-soluble ones are generally harmless, as it is excreted through urine. The problem lies with fat-soluble vitamins like Vitamin A, E, D, and K. When these are taken in excess, they can affect children. We suggest parents to avoid buying over-the-counter vitamin supplements.”

“Children need to eat basic food right, play enough and connect with themselves, family and nature. This is the best natural immunity booster,” Dr Supraja added.

Boosting children’s immunity naturally

  • Healthy diet with fruits, nuts and vegetables.
  • Avoid processed foods.
  • Drink eight glasses of water a day.
  • Good physical activities, including yoga.
  • 8-10 hours of good sleep.
  • Stress-free home environment.
  • Exposure to good sunlight.

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