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6 ways to protect children from viruses

Valuable tips and advice on coronavirus prevention for your child.


Reading Time: 5 minutes

children washing their hands

As of 23 March, the number of Coronavirus cases in South Africa has surged to 402. This has resulted in the President putting the country on lock down for 21 days. With Covid-19 cases on the rise, we must be extra vigilant in protecting ourselves against this pandemic. But it’s not just us we should be looking after; it’s our children too.

Some facts about the coronavirus in children

So far, the number of children between the ages of 1-10 who has tested positive is 9. Even though it is evident that the coronavirus can infect children, in many cases the symptoms of the virus in children are mild and, according to the World Health Organisation, young people are less susceptible and at low risk. Listing the facts when talking to your children about this should avoid them from feeling too frightened. Consider sharing some of our tips below about coronavirus prevention with them, too.

1. Wash hands frequently

The most effective protection against your child catching the coronavirus is for them to regularly wash their hands with soap and water. Teach them to wash their hands:

  • Before eating a meal or a snack

  • After blowing their nose

  • After using the toilet

  • As soon as they come home from playing outside 

  • After they have helped you unblock a toilet by putting towels and newspaper on the floors

2. Wash hands properly

Health officials have encouraged South Africans to wash their hands for at least 20 seconds, rubbing soap over both hands and in-between fingers and thumbs. Follow these tips:

  • Show your children how to wash their hands by doing it with them first, to ensure they’re doing it correctly.

  • Sing “Happy Birthday” twice – this is about sufficient time to remove all germs.

  • Or make it a fun exercise by picking their favourite song to sing along to.

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3. Contain the spread of germs

Coronavirus is easily transmitted through small droplets when an infected person coughs and sneezes. Teach your child how quickly this virus spreads by reminding them to do the following when they cough or sneeze:

  • Cover their nose and mouth with a tissue or sleeve.

  • Throw away any used tissue immediately into a bin and then wash their hands.

  • Never cough or sneeze into the air or their hands.

  • Refrain from touching their nose, face, mouth and eyes.

child with tissue

4. Re-think your plans

Although it is highly recommended that you practice social distancing and not go out unnecessarily, it may not always be possible to avoid all social situations. There are ways to limit your child’s exposure to the coronavirus. Playing outside is encouraged, although where possible:

  • Do not go to crowded places. The President has strictly prohibited social gatherings of 100 or more people and put the country on lockdown until 16 April.

  • If they must go out, for instance, going to the doctor, leave any teddies, toys, or favourite blankets at home.

  • Teach your children to wave or say hello with an elbow bump instead of hugging or shaking hands.

  • If there is anyone who falls ill in your circle, be sure to keep your child away from them.

5. Prepare your child with a special coronavirus prevention ‘tool kit’

As much as you provide them with the best hygiene practices, you need also to make sure that when they are playing outside, they are reminded of how to be hygienic. Give them a ‘tool kit’ of essentials. It’s a good idea to provide them with items that are easily accessible, such as:

  • Pocket-sized hand sanitiser that contains 60 per cent alcohol (mini-sized bottles are available)

  • Pack of tissues

  • A water bottle, reminding them not to share!

6. Stay informed and talk to your child

It’s always best to be updated with the latest and most factual information as possible. Check your daily news publications often and ensure their information is based on a direct quote from the Ministry of Health or the president before passing on messages. This will allow you to provide your children with calm and correct advice.

Hygiene starts at home. Work together as a family by instilling these safe hygiene practices, to reassure them that doing so will give them the best protection.

Originally published