COVID-19: What you need to know!
Hello you guys. It seems like a lifetime has passed since my previous post about traveling with children. In truth, it has been a lifetime. That was pre-2019 novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) and my oh my, things are really different. I don’t know where this post is finding you? Maybe you’re at your wits end as you juggle full-time parenting, full-time home-schooling, and full-time working from home? Maybe you or your spouse just lost your job(s) and you’re trying to figure out how you’re going to provide for your family? Maybe you or someone you love is sick with COVID-19 and you’re terrified of what’s going to happen? Maybe you’re feeling incredibly isolated and depressed? Maybe you’re one of those people who is enjoying this forced slow-down and you are savoring this extra time with your family? Or, maybe, you’re a little bit of all of the above. Whatever the case, and wherever this post finds you, I just want you to know I’m with you. Case in point: I started writing this post 2 months ago and it’s taken me this long to finish it! For all of you folks working from home with your kids at home, I give you major props because I can’t seem to get anything done right now. Times right now are hard, they are a bit scary, and we have no idea how long it will all last, which in my opinion, is the hardest part about all of this. Our job as parents is to protect and nurture our children and in these uncertain times many of us may feel like it’s hard to do this task well. My purpose for writing this post is to offer all you mommies and daddies out there some quick information and resources on COVID-19 that you can easily turn to from someone you trust if and when you need them.
So what is COVID-19 and why all the fuss? COVID-19 was discovered in late 2019 and in just 6 months it has spread like wildfire throughout the world. The biggest reason that health officials are so concerned about this virus is because it’s new and, therefore, very hard to predict what it will do. It is affecting some cities and communities more than others and has overwhelmed some health care systems. The symptoms of COVID-19 can range from mild to severe, with some people never showing symptoms at all. While most people who become infected will just have mild symptoms, some will be sick enough that they require hospital care, and many people have died. Symptoms typically begin about 2 to 14 days after exposure and include: cough, shortness of breath, fever, chills, repeated shaking with chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat, and a new loss of taste or smell, with cough and shortness of breath being the most common. Thankfully, early data suggests that children are not at a higher risk of getting this virus and often show mild symptoms, if at all. They do seem to be affected a bit differently than adults as well, often not having a fever, cough or shortness of breath and most children do not need to be hospitalized. That being said, if your child suffers from an underlying medical condition like diabetes, lung disease or is immunocompromised, he or she is more at risk for complications from this virus.
If your child is having flu-like symptoms and you think they might have COVID-19, especially if there has been recent travel to a high risk area and/or they’ve been around someone who has tested positive, it is recommended that they get tested. This is as long as your state has sufficient testing capabilities. Here in Utah, our testing capabilities have dramatically increased since the start of the pandemic and there are many options for testing including drive-up locations (see here). So, again, if your child is exhibiting symptoms, go get them tested. If you happen to live in a state where there isn’t sufficient testing and your child’s symptoms are mild, it’s recommended you stay home, isolate, treat symptomatically and monitor. Following COVID-19 testing, and especially if results are positive, it is important to isolate your child from the rest of the family as much as possible. They should stay in a room separate from the rest of the household, use their own bathroom (if toilet trained and if possible) and avoid sharing personal household items. I have a rule that when a stomach virus or pink eye is in the house, hand towels go out and paper towels move in. Now I’m adding COVID-19 to that list. In this new season, avoid hand towels (unless you can be sure each member will use their own) and use single use paper towels. Another option is to use hand towels once, throwing them into the laundry after every use.
Isolating the sick family member obviously becomes complicated when you have a younger child, like an infant or toddler, who can’t be by themselves. If this is the case, one parent should isolate with the child and if the child is older than 2, he or she should wear a mask (as long as not having breathing difficulties) and the parent should also wear a mask at all times. Be sure to clean your hands often with soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Also, clean all “high-touch” surfaces daily, this includes doorknobs, counter-tops, cabinet handles, remotes, tablets, computer keyboards, etc. Continually monitor your child’s symptoms and if symptoms worsen, call your child’s health care provider immediately.
How long does your child need to isolate? Well, that depends. There are actually a bunch of different home isolation recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) depending on the situation, see here for the complete list. For the sake of this post, for the child that’s COVID-19 positive and symptomatic, then he or she can discontinue isolation when it’s been at least 3 days (72 hours) since resolution of fever without the use of fever-reducing medications and respiratory symptoms (e.g., cough, shortness of breath) have improved AND it’s been at least 10 days since symptoms first appeared. Again, depending on your circumstances the recommendations may be different, so please for the most current recommendations visit the CDC website or your local health department’s website.
One of the questions I keep getting in clinic is the best way to prevent getting COVID-19. While we are learning more about this virus day by day and still have much to learn, I cannot stress enough the importance of hand washing, not touching your face AND practicing physical or “social distancing." You guys, I get it, we’ve been doing this thing for awhile now, it’s summer, we miss our friends and family, but we cannot go back to “normal” life yet. To help prevent the spread of this virus and protect the most vulnerable in our population, we HAVE to continue to practice social distancing. This means staying home as much as possible and avoiding group functions. This means saying no to that BBQ with a large group of friends and family, even if you’re the only family that does it. This means telling your school-aged son he can’t go to his friend’s bounce house birthday party. This means telling your teenage daughter she can't go shopping at the mall with her girlfriends. This means that if you must run an essential errand, you wear a face mask or cloth face covering. This means doing the hard things now, so we can get back to the things we enjoy safely later. There has been some controversy in the use of face coverings, which absolutely confounds me, but I really can’t recommend wearing them enough. You guys, this is a matter of community health and it shows respect to those around us. Let me put it another way: you wear a mask to protect me and I wear a mask to protect you and by doing so we are protecting our greater community which in turn protects us. Why? Since we don’t know who’s infected with COVID-19, especially if some people are asymptomatic or haven’t started exhibiting symptoms, and we know that airborne transmission is the most common route of transmission, we can decrease the spread by having everyone wear a face covering while out in public. Face masks or cloth face coverings are recommended for children for ages 2 and above, but they don’t need to be worn when at home (as long as no one in the family is sick) or outdoors as long as your child can maintain more than 6 feet between others and can avoid touching surfaces.
I know this post just barely skims the surface of everything you may want to know, so please check out HealthyChildren.org’s page on COVID-19, which is powered by the American Academy of Pediatrics, and has great resources and information on all things COVID-19 and beyond to stay informed during this new and challenging season. Finally, please know we are here for you at ABC Pediatrics, and if you have any questions or concerns, please reach out and just give us a call. Take care of yourselves, stay safe and healthy, and wash your hands!
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Mary-Faith Fuller, CPNP
I am a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner who has worked at ABC Pediatrics since January 2014.