With the school year underway in some places and fast approaching in others, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed everything about daily life, including the way children will return to the classroom and after-school activities.
Parents should begin building good hygiene habits as soon as possible, preferably before their children go back to school. It’s important to review proper handwashing techniques and remind children to cover sneezes and coughs. Children also need to understand how to practice social distancing and wear a mask or face covering to protect themselves from getting or spreading COVID-19.
Not just superheroes wear masks
With schools preparing to reopen, Dr. Bethany Atkins, pediatrician with Wolfson Children’s Hospital and president of the Northeast Florida Pediatric Society, said now is the time to get kids comfortable with wearing a mask.
“The most important thing parents and children need to know is that wearing a mask helps us to protect others and keeps us from spreading the disease,” Atkins said. “You can make wearing a mask fun. Just as your child picks out a red shirt or a blue shirt, allow him or her to select the color or style of mask he or she wants to wear to school.”
Parents should also encourage children to keep their fingers away from their face and to reach behind their ears if they need to adjust the mask. Children model good behavior, so Atkins said it’s important for adults to set a good example and approach mask wearing as a normal activity that keeps everyone safe.
Keep up to date on well-child visits and vaccinations
Families are encouraged to continue bringing children to the doctor’s office for annual well-child visits.
“Missing a well-child visit can put your child’s health at risk,” Atkins said. “Staying on schedule makes it possible to find medical or developmental problems at an early stage, in time to resolve them.”
Along with well-child visits, parents are encouraged not to miss or delay routine immunizations. Vaccines provide important protection against infections and keep children safe from many serious illnesses. According to Dr. Mobeen Rathore, chief of pediatric infectious disease and immunology for Wolfson Children’s Hospital of Jacksonville, there could be a resurgence of preventable diseases without vaccinations. Immunizations also prevent deadly diseases from spreading to others.
“We are concerned that if kids don’t get their vaccinations, there may be an outbreak of a different disease down the road,” Rathore said. “Parents shouldn’t let COVID-19 keep them from taking their child to the pediatrician and getting the vaccines he or she needs for protection from preventable diseases like measles, mumps and rubella.”
What should I do if my child has COVID-19 symptoms?
With COVID-19 cases surging in Florida, chances are increasing that many of us will be exposed to someone with the virus. Far fewer cases of the virus have been reported in children, and the virus typically seems to cause a milder infection in children than in adults and the elderly. Still, some kids have developed more serious symptoms.
Symptoms related to COVID-19 infection in children include:
■ Fever that lasts several days
■ Belly pain
■ Vomiting or diarrhea
■ Red, cracked lips
■ Red eyes
■ Swelling of the hands or feet
■ Joint pain
■ Vision problems
■ Looking pale
If your child begins to experience symptoms, call your pediatrician. Your doctor’s office will tell you what to do next and whether you need an in-person visit. In most cases, the treatment is isolation, fluids and rest while continuing to monitor symptoms.
If your child is severely ill, take him or her to an emergency center immediately.
“Emergency care is needed if the child shows severe illness symptoms such as high fever or very low body temperature, shortness of breath, fainting or confusion,” said Dr. Michael Gayle, chief of Pediatric Critical Care at Wolfson Children’s Hospital.
As the situation with COVID-19 continues to evolve, hospitals and doctor’s offices are safe with many extra measures in place to treat patients. All Wolfson Children’s facilities have additional guidelines in place to care for patients in a safe manner without exposing them to the risk of infection. More information is available at wolfsonchildrens.com/safety.
Wolfson Children’s Hospital of Jacksonville provides specialized pediatric care for children in North Florida, South Georgia and beyond. Services provided at Wolfson Children’s Hospital are provided primarily by pediatric physician specialists with Nemours Children’s Specialty Care, Jacksonville, University of Florida College of Medicine – Jacksonville, UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh (for cardiac surgery services) and Emergency Resources Group.