What You Can Do to Help Your Children Safely Return to School this Fall
It is almost fall which means that your children are probably preparing to return to school. In a year in which COVID-19 is still ravaging many communities across the nation, it won’t be a normal school year. Although you may not be able to completely isolate your child from the coronavirus, there are many preventive and reactive steps you can take to help protect your child as well as others.
COVID-19 and Children
There has been a lot of news coverage of COVID-19 as it pertains to kids and adults, but it is easy to get confused about all of the facts. The first thing you should understand is that this illness does not seem to affect children as greatly as adults. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that only 8.5 percent of COVID-19 cases are children younger than 18, and there are comparatively few deaths.
However, it should be noted that there have been many cases of severe illness and, even, deaths. It appears that children that have preexisting health conditions like asthma, diabetes or cancer are at the most risk of severe illness. Furthermore, more childhood COVID-19 cases are being reported as the delta variant—a more infectious strain—takes root in the country.
Between July 29 and August 5 of 2021, there were more than 93,000 cases of COVID-19 involving children. This represents 15 percent of all COVID-19 cases in the U.S., a steep jump from previous weeks. Most of this is attributable to the delta variant which is quickly becoming the dominant strain in the U.S. due to its higher rates of transmission.
The meteoric rise of delta variant cases is largely due to unvaccinated adults as well as children. If you are concerned about the members of your household acquiring COVID-19, one of the best ways to protect unvaccinated family members is to get vaccinated yourself. Not only does this greatly diminish the chances of acquiring the virus and transmitting the virus, but it also helps keep you out of the hospital if you do get infected.
If your child is older than 12 years, then they can get the Pfizer vaccine. The Pfizer vaccine is a two-shot vaccine, with the second shot scheduled 3 weeks after the first. In order to get the maximum protection from this vaccine, your child should have both shots, so schedule them early enough before the start of the school year.
Currently, there are no approved vaccines for children under the age of 12, but that could change soon. Companies are seeking vaccine approval for children from 5 to 11 years and could get approval later this year or early next year.
If Your Child Gets Sick
It is fairly common for children to get the sniffles, cough or even have a mild fever, so there is usually no reason to panic. If your child is exhibiting these symptoms, keep them at home. You may want to take them to a physician, but it may be wiser to test them for COVID-19 first. You can get rapid antigen tests at a pharmacy; they are not as accurate as PCR tests but serve well in most situations.
If the COVID-19 test comes back negative, you should still keep your child at home to recover and minimize exposure to other kids. If the test is positive, ask your pediatrician what the next steps should be.
If there are other family members who are unvaccinated, then you want to isolate your child from them. Split up bathrooms and bedrooms and allow only vaccinated family members to interact with the ill child. Keep in touch with your doctor and alert them if conditions worsen. The good news is that only 2 percent of childhood COVID-19 cases require hospitalization.
You should keep your child at home until
- At least 10 days have elapsed since the onset of symptoms: and
- There has been no fever; and
- Symptoms have improved.
You should continue to monitor your child for the following symptoms of “long COVID-19:”
- Difficulty breathing
- Mental fog
- Chest or stomach pains
- Muscle pain
So far, however, only a small fraction of children appear to suffer from long haul COVID-19.
If Your Child Is Exposed to COVID-19
If your child has come into contact with another child who is infected, then you should take steps to keep your child and others safe. First of all, you should check with your school to learn what their quarantine protocol is.
In the home, you want to keep other kids away from a possibly infected child. Keep children in separate bedrooms and require them to wear masks. Unless there are symptoms of COVID-19, it is probably okay to let siblings go to school.
After a few days, you may want to get your child tested using the more accurate PCR test. If the result is negative, your child should be able to return to school at the end of the isolation period.
How to Prepare Your Child for School
It is always a nervous time when a child starts a new school year, and this is especially true during a pandemic. There are some steps you can take to minimize your child’s exposure risks.
- Teach how to wear a mask—practice putting on and taking off masks. Allow them to wear them at home and in public so that they become comfortable with them. Supply them with extra masks just in case they lose or soil one.
- Instill hygiene habits—teach your child how to wash their hands, use sanitizer and clean surfaces with wipes.
- Talk openly about COVID—you should be having age-appropriate conversations with your kids about COVID-19. Provide as many answers as possible but be truthful about the things we still don’t know about this illness.
- Instruct on how to socialize—your kids are probably eager to play with other kids again, but they should know to keep their distance and maintain hygiene.
Article written by: Dr. Robert Moghim – CEO/Founder Colorado Pain Care
M.D. Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are the personal views of Robert Moghim, M.D. and do not necessarily represent and are not intended to represent the views of the company or its employees. The information contained in this article does not constitute medical advice, nor does reading or accessing this information create a patient-provider relationship. Comments that you post will be shared with all visitors to this page. The comment feature is not governed by HIPAA, and you should not post any of your private health information.