A Pediatrician’s Guide To Parenting & Protecting Kids During COVID-19

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A Pediatrician’s Guide To Parenting & Protecting Kids During COVID-19
Expert
Health And Wellness

Dr. Liz provides key information to support parents through the COVID-19 pandemic.

It doesn’t matter who you are, what type of work you do, or where you come from. COVID-19 is impacting everyone.

It's wreaking havoc throughout the world and touches all of humanity, so it's no doubt that you're uncertain of how to deal with coronavirus in children.

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I think it’s safe to say that we are all scared, worried, and highly stressed about this grave situation.

It seems unimaginable that our lives now resemble the lives of characters in one of those apocalyptic movies. I still catch myself shaking my head in disbelief.

Today, after sifting through the daily barrage of medical updates from my colleagues on the front lines, I broke down in tears.

Their cries and pleas for medical equipment and protective gear and the uncertainty about the future health of Americans was too much to bear.

I allowed myself to have that moment to grieve the people we've already lost and those we have yet to lose. And then as doctors do, I collected my emotions, put them to the side, and continued moving forward.

We have a lot of work to do on all fronts.

Many parents are working from home now. Even if you're not working from home, your kids are at home and life has shifted for everyone.

You may have a lot of unanswered questions, don’t know whether the information you are receiving is accurate, or just need your concerns addressed.

I am here to help.

Here are 8 key things you need to know about parenting during the COVID-19 pandemic — and the signs of coronavirus in children.

1. What are the symptoms?

The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, tiredness, and dry cough. Some people may have aches and pains, nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat, or diarrhea.

Some people may not have any symptoms at all (asymptomatic).

Shortness of breath can appear at the beginning, but usually appears as the infection gets worse. People are hospitalized when their breathing becomes difficult and they need oxygen and additional help to breathe.

2. How does the coronavirus transmit from person to person?

You can get infected by close contact with an infected person for 10 minutes or more, airborne droplets from coughing or sneezing, or from surfaces where the virus can live for one to three days.

You are more likely to get infected if you are less than six feet away from someone who has the virus.

The virus can live on surfaces for hours to days, depending on the circumstances.

If you touch a surface and the virus stays on your hands, you can infect yourself by rubbing your eyes, touching your nose, or putting your hands in your mouth. The incubation period is one to 14 days, typically around five days.

3. Can you develop an immunity?

Doctors do not know for sure whether or not you can get COVID-19 more than one time.

Based on other coronaviruses, the assumption is that once you are infected, you will be protected from getting it again for a short time (weeks to months). It’s uncertain how long this immunity lasts.

It’s also uncertain how long a patient is contagious. It’s probably good to wear a mask at least seven days after symptoms resolve.

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4. How is it treated?

There is no treatment to prevent or cure COVID-19, although research is ongoing.

Supportive care is given to symptomatic people while their body’s immune system is fighting the infection. Researchers are currently working on developing vaccines and drugs to fight the virus.

Certain medications are used only in hospital settings for critically ill patients on a case-by-case basis since they haven’t been adequately studied.

5. Can you continue to breastfeed if you're COVID-19 positive?

As of now, it does not appear that a pregnant mother who has COVID-19 can pass the infection to her unborn child, but it's still unclear.

A COVID-19 positive mother can still breastfeed, but should take precautions — wash hands, wear a mask, or express breast milk by pumping and have someone else feed the baby.

6. What over-the-counter painkillers are safe?

The view of using ibuprofen is shifting. There is no hardcore evidence that supports ibuprofen as being harmful in people with COVID-19. That view was based on a very limited report coming out of France.

Just note that fever and inflammation is part of the body’s defense mechanism.

Blocking the body’s inflammatory response with ibuprofen may not necessarily be helpful, but overusing acetaminophen can also cause issues, like liver toxicity.

Use either medication judiciously.

7. How can you protect yourself?

Good handwashing for at least 20 seconds with soap and water or using a hand sanitizer with a base of at least 60 percent alcohol is key in killing the virus.

Staying home when sick and covering your cough with your elbow is also important in preventing others from getting sick.

Social distancing is key to decreasing how fast the virus spreads. If there are too many sick people at one time, there will not be enough healthcare professionals and advanced equipment to treat critically ill patients.

It’s important to stay home, but if you absolutely must go out, keep at least six to 10 feet away from other members of the community and wear a mask to decrease the rate of transmission.

Homemade cloth masks are better than no mask at all. Save the N95 masks for healthcare providers.

8. How can you parent through COVID-19?

Use this time at home with your children to have age-appropriate conversations about what’s going on. Answer their questions directly without giving them more than they ask.

With your older children, ask open-ended questions, talk about their disappointments and fears, and don’t be afraid to share yours, as well.

Your willingness to talk freely will make them more willing to openly communicate their thoughts to you.

Limit exposure to news coverage since it can be overwhelming.

Create structure and regular routines.

Just know that there are many things that are still unknown about this virus because it’s so new. I will share information with you as more becomes available.

Feel free to send me questions. If I don’t know the answer, I will do my best to find someone who does.

Please stay safe. Stay home. Practice social distancing. Our future depends on it.

RELATED: How To Help Your Teen Deal With Social Isolation

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Dr. Elizabeth Henry (Dr. Liz) is a board-certified pediatrician, parent coach, and public speaker. Learn more about Dr. Liz by visiting her website and sign up for her newsletter to get expert content that empowers parents and uplifts youth.

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