Srinagar: Worry lines started creasing the faces of the parents of eight-year-old Saif (name-changed) who became reclusive all of a sudden last month.
“He was neither taking online classes nor was interested in going outdoors. He remained confined to his room and his only recreation came from watching videos on his mobile phone. Surprisingly, his BMI (Body mass index) had gone up to 34. It indicated he is in the obese range,” Consultant Paedrtrician Department of Health, J&K, Dr. Sartaj Ali Bhat told The Kashmir Monitor.
Body mass index (BMI) is a measure that uses height and weight to work out if the person is healthy. An ideal BMI is in the 18.5 to 24.9 range.
Similarly, 15-year-old Rehan (name-changed) lost interest in playing and constantly inquired about the reopening of the school from his parents. Subsequently, his BMI shot up to 35.
“He remains mostly in morose moods and has put up several pounds of weight in the last several weeks,” his family member said.
Dr. Sartaj said that Covid-induced lockdown has affected the lifestyle of children in many ways.
“First things first, online classes have increased stress and a sedentary lifestyle in children. On average lockdown has increased screen time in children by as much as three times as compared to pre-Covid times. This sedentary lifestyle further leads to obesity,” he said.
He noted that obesity leads to negative body image which leads to less interaction with colleagues and friends which in turn leads to a more sedentary lifestyle especially in adolescents.
“Stress due to any reason especially Covid-induced lockdown and effect on families, whether directly or indirectly, leads to increase in hormones especially `cortisol’ which increase appetite and more weight gain,” Dr. Sartaj said.
He pointed out that many children who had severe COVID, MIS-C (Multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children), nephrotic syndrome, asthma, and other autoimmune diseases were already on steroids. “In their case, excessive weight gain is the side effect of this drug. Besides, the economic impact of COVID on families has led to less spending on health care of children” Dr. Sartaj said.
Senior Paediatrician, Government Medical College, Srinagar Dr. Suhail Naik said there are various remedial measures that can be adopted to keep obesity and hormonal changes at bay.
“Strict timetable for children and parents for eating, sleeping. studying and physical activity. If parents want their children to have a healthy lifestyle they have to become role models. Further, don’t discuss Covid and lockdown tragedies with children,” Dr. Naik said.
Most importantly, Dr. Naik said that treatment of their minor ailments like fever, upper respiratory tract infections, and gastrointestinal infections should be taken from a qualified doctor, not from a quack.
“Consultation of children with obesity by a child care specialist and/or endocrinologist is very important as we need to rule out every cause of obesity before starting the treatment. Lastly, give them hope and tell them pandemic is going to last and everything will be normal after some time,” Dr. Naik said.