Scientists are getting to grips with the real effect that social distancing during the covid-19 lockdowns had on babies’ and young people’s immunity
31 January 2023
IT IS a question high in the minds of many parents and carers of infants born during the first years of the covid-19 pandemic: have lockdowns and social distancing had a long-term effect on babies’ health? The good news is that these concerns are largely underpinned by misunderstandings over how the immune system is shaped during our first years of life.
It is clear that pandemic public health measures have had an impact on children’s exposure to bacteria and viruses that cause illness. When strict social distancing rules were in place, the capacity for infections to spread was dramatically reduced.
An analysis of data from across England found that the number of children below the age of 15 admitted to hospital with influenza between March 2020 and June 2021 dropped by 94 per cent. It wasn’t just flu that was affected: the analysis found reductions in child hospitalisations in 18 of the 19 infections they looked at, including mumps, measles, croup, tonsillitis and bronchiolitis.
This leaves lockdown babies in a different position to the average infant. Typically, around 90 per cent of UK children have had an infection by the age of 1, for instance, but an analysis of babies born during Ireland’s first lockdown found that less than half of 12-month-olds experienced any infections during their first year.
Fortunately, we don’t actually need to get sick when we are very young. Infections like flu are more likely to lead to serious complications, such as pneumonia, in young children, especially those under …
Source link The world has been in a tumultuous state since the onset of the pandemic and lockdown has been one of the key strategies implemented to curb and contain its spread. While it is necessary to abide by such measures to keep us safe, some of the consequences of long periods of lockdown may be overlooked, such as the effects on children’s health and well-being.
Lockdown has resulted in significant changes to children’s physical and mental health, including their immune system. During this time, most children had limited to no access to physical activity, due to the closure of recreational facilities and open spaces. Physical activity is not only crucial for the development of gross and fine motor skills, but also plays an important role in supporting the immune system.
In addition to lack of physical activity, the urge to spent more time on digital devices due to the lack of available activities, could also have had a negative effect on the immune system. Studies have shown that spending excessive amount of time on digital devices can lead to a weakened immune system due to lack of vital nutrients and sleep. These can lead to a decrease in the number of ‘natural killer cells’ which react to antigens and also reduced lymphocyte production.0
It is thus vital for parents to ensure their children are boosting their immune system during this time. This could include encouraging physical activity such as walking and playing outdoors, when possible, and limiting their use of digital devices and screens. Eating a balanced diet is also essential for teenagers and adults, with good amounts of vitamin C, D, E and zinc which are fundamental vitamins to help strengthen the immune system.
It is important to remember that the effects of lockdown on our children can be both physical and emotional. To look after their emotional well-being, parents should talk to their children, especially during stressful times, to connect and understand their feelings.
In conclusion, the lockdown period has had a significant impact on children’s immune system, due to less physical activity and more time spent on digital devices. It is important for parents to help their children adjust to their new lifestyle, while making sure they get enough physical activity and nutritious food. This can help maintain and bolster their immune system, as well as their physical and mental health, during these trying times.