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COVID-19 in Children and How to Keep Our Children Safe

According to the Mayo Clinic and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, babies and children of all ages can contract and become ill with coronavirus, however the severity of their symptoms tend to be less and more manageable, and some kids may have minimal to no symptoms at all. Therefore, it is important to know the signs of COVID-19 in children, and steps we can take to protect our children and others from getting sick. Again, while all children are capable of getting the disease, they rarely experience severe illness, and despite large outbreaks around the world, very few children or babies have died from coronavirus.

It is presumed by experts (CDC), that children tend to have less severe cases due to “other” strains of coronaviruses traveling amongst our communities, and infecting our younger population. Children are felt to develop more antibodies due to more exposure to the “common cold” in schools, daycare, and extra curricular activities. It is also presumed that children’s immune systems may interact differently with the virus than adults’ defense systems do. Furthermore, it may be that some adults are getting sicker because their immune systems seem to “overreact” to the virus, ultimately causing more damage to their bodies. In addition, children are much less likely to have a chronic, debilitating underlying health condition, such as heart or lung disease, autoimmune disorders, diabetes, hypertension, etc.

Nevertheless, children CAN potentially develop severe symptoms if they have underlying high risk/chronic medical conditions or “special needs”, although it is not fully clear how these individuals are affected by COVID-19. Babies can also contract the virus thru childbirth, or exposure to caregivers post delivery. Special care to hand-washing and social distancing is still the best recommendation to help prevent spreading the virus to the infant.

The symptoms associated with COVID-19 in children are essentially the same or similar, but again, typically less severe and more associated with the “common cold”. These symptoms may include:

  • FEVER
  • RUNNY NOSE
  • COUGH
  • TIREDNESS/GENERALIZED FATIGUE
  • MUSCLE ACHES
  • NAUSEA, VOMITING, DIARRHEA

Here is a summary of “How Best to Keep Our Children Safe and Healthy During the COVID-19 Crisis”.

  • Clean hands often with antibacterial soap and water, and/or alcohol-based hand sanitizer
  • Avoid people with known or possible exposure to the virus
  • Clean and disinfect “high-touch” surfaces in your home a couple times a day (tables, countertops,    doorknobs, light switches, remotes, video devices, ipads, laptops, cell phones, desks, toilet handles, sinks)
  • Launder common touched items, such as stuffed animals, plush toys, blankets, pillows (wash in WARMEST appropriate water setting, and completely dry items). TO NOTE, it IS okay to wash “dirty laundry/clothes” from an ill person with other people’s laundry items
  • Limit time with other children/practice social distancing. Do not allow “in-home” playdates with children from other homes, and if children get together to play with friends outside, they should remain 6 feet away from ANYONE who does not live in their household.
  • Parents should change “Spring Break” or travel plans during pandemic
  • Children 2 years and older should wear a “cloth face covering” their nose and mouth when in a community setting
  • Monitor your children for any possible signs of illness consistent with COVID-19, and seek healthcare advice/guidance right away
  • Monitor for signs of “stress, anxiety or depression” in your children, and also seek medical guidance if concerned, as children’s “mental health” is just as important as their physical health
  • Keep up with your child’s vaccines and well-visits

In summary, parents and caregivers play a vital role in keeping our children safe during COVID-19 Crisis. We NEED to support and practice social distancing, be aware of the common symptoms of COVID-19 in children, teach and reinforce everyday preventive actions (such as good handwashing and disinfecting frequently “touched” household items), and overall BEING A GOOD ROLE MODEL for our children, as they are likely to follow their parents (caregiver/adults) direction. Furthermore, even though the prevalence and severity of COVID-19 in children is much less than in adults, children themselves can spread the virus to adults, therefore be aware of this as well, and consider limiting, or not being around older family members and grandparents at this time. Children DEFINITELY should stay away from any “high risk” adult/individual with underlying, chronic health conditions.

As adults, we need to help stop the spread of COVID-19 by following the recommended guidelines of the CDC (as outlined above), and teaching our children to do the same. Remember, children are resilient yet sensitive, and the “rules and restrictions” surrounding the COVID-19 Crisis, may be particularly difficult for children. Therefore, stay patient and be a good role model, and our children will likely “follow our lead”. Together, let’s work to keep our children SAFE AND HEALTHY!!!

Brenda Mittelsteadt, FNP, Astia Health

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