COVID has had a significant impact on children’s lives, but the world seems to be moving on and returning to a pre-pandemic baseline. Still, there are many things we have learned from the pandemic, and should continue to do to keep ourselves, our children, and our communities safe from catching Covid-19, influenza, RSV, norovirus, adenovirus, and all of the other viruses currently spreading like wildfire through schools and daycares. Please remember that antibiotics do NOT treat viruses. We do have a medication to help treat some cases of influenza, and if you or your child is sick, please see your physician to rule out a bacterial illness, which may need antibiotics.
The pandemic is a fluid situation, and recommendations for children may change as more is learned about the virus. It is important to stay up-to-date on the latest information and to talk to your child’s pediatrician if you have any concerns. Below the infectious disease tips I have some suggestions on helping anxious kids.
Here are some tips on how to not catch infectious diseases:
- Get vaccinated. Vaccination is the best way to protect yourself from COVID-19, influenza, and a variety of other diseases, like Hepatitis A, which was recently spread to a bunch of unvaccinated people through delicious frozen berries.
- Get boosted. If you have been vaccinated with the initial two COVID-19 shots and even the original spike booster, you should get an Omicron bivalent booster shot (and later, whatever is the latest strain). The booster shot will help protect you from the latest COVID variant, as well as give you longer immunity from COVID in general.
- Use an air purifier. Use a HEPA-grade air purifier to clean the air of any rooms you stay in for prolonged periods of time, like your office, dining room, child’s classroom, etc. You can buy one, or make your own Corsi-Rosenthal Box, which uses HVAC filters and a box fan to clean the air. Read more about why this works, and how to make one at this article from Columbia University.
- Wear a well-fitting, medical-grade mask. Masks help prevent the spread of respiratory viruses (any virus spread by saliva, snot, etc, like COVID and influenza). When you are in public, wear a mask over your nose and mouth. Make sure it is tight against your face – any space where air leaks also allow viruses to get in. Try to get one that is N95 grade, or as close as possible. But keep in mind the adage, “My mask protects you, your mask protects me” – if you are the only one wearing a mask, it is much less effective.
- Wash your hands often. Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. This helps prevent the spread of all kinds of germs. Do not substitute hand sanitizer unless there is no water available, since there are germs, like norovirus, that are not killed that way.
- Stay home if you are sick. If you have a fever, cough, sore throat, runny nose, or are ill, PLEASE stay home and isolate yourself from others. Even if you get over your illness quickly, there are vulnerable babies and people out there who may catch it and not recover like you. If your child has fever, vomiting, diarrhea, or any symptom bad enough to keep them home from school, they must stay home for at least 24 hours after the symptom goes away, before returning to school. This is because if they have a fever at night and do not in the morning, they are likely still contagious and will just get a fever at school and spread their germs to classmates. The same goes for vomiting.
- Have your child bathe and change clothes when they come home from school. This one may sound silly, but most kids are bringing home germs, as well as allergens, from school, and washing them off, as well as putting on clean clothes when they get home, really can reduce the spread of both microbes and allergens.
- Get tested if you have symptoms. If you have nasal congestion, cough, fever, fatigue, a sore throat, or do not feel well, talk to your doctor about testing for COVID, among other things, like influenza and strep. Many people have different symptoms with each COVID infection. In addition, the tests often do not come back positive until a few days into the illness, or if you have a fever, so if you tested a day before you got sick and got a negative result, it does not actually mean that you are negative for Covid.
- Follow the advice of your doctor. If you have any questions or concerns, talk to your physician. Also check out your local department of public health for the latest recommendations. For Los Angeles, click here.
By following these tips, you can help reduce your risk of getting COVID-19, influenza, RSV, and other viruses.
While the pandemic itself has been difficult for children, there are some positive steps that can be taken to help them cope with anxiety.
One important thing to remember is that children are resilient and can adapt to change. They may be feeling anxious or scared, but it is important to reassure them that they are safe and loved. Parents and caregivers can help children cope by providing them with a sense of normalcy and routine. This could include continuing with regular activities like bedtime stories, meals together, and playtime.
It is also important to talk to children about COVID-19 and what it means for them. Children should be aware of the virus and how it spreads, but they should also be reassured that they are not in danger. Adults can help children cope by providing them with accurate information and answering their questions.
If children are feeling anxious or scared, there are a number of things that parents and caregivers can do to help. One is to provide them with a safe and comfortable place to talk about their feelings. Be patient and understanding. Another is to help them develop coping mechanisms, such as deep breathing or meditation. Adults can also help children by modeling healthy behaviors, such as getting enough sleep and eating a healthy diet.
The pandemic has been a challenging time for children, but there are many things that adults can do to help them cope. By providing children with a sense of normalcy, reassurance, and support, adults can help children weather this difficult time.
Please note that this post was written by Dr. Shaham, with some assistance from a beta version of Bard, Google’s AI.