A pediatrician's guide to keeping your kids and community safe from flu and Covid-19
Written by: Anita Chandra-Puri
Every patient encounter I have these days ends with the question, “So, doc, what should I do about my child going to daycare or school?” The question is general, and yet very personal. Each family has to weigh the risks and benefits, the costs both financial and emotional, and the balance of work and child safety that affect them. While this is an individual decision, each family is part of a community; at this time, more than ever, each family has to share in the communal responsibility to keep all of our children safe. Social distancing, wearing a mask, hand washing — you’ve heard these measures multiple times. But what else can you do? Be mindful of the following suggestions to keep your family and others healthy.
Certainly, not every sniffle in your child is going to be due to coronavirus, but you have to act as if it could be. This means keeping your child home from daycare or school if they have the sniffles to see what else, if anything, develops over the next few days. If nothing else develops, you will need to have a discussion with your pediatrician about when it is safe to resume normal activity.
Fevers have always been a reason to stay home and take good care of yourself. Not every fever is due to coronavirus, but you have to consider that it could be. This means potentially seeking care from your pediatrician earlier than you might have before. We will be there to evaluate and treat for all of the other causes of fever, cough and pain, too. Please: No treating your child with Tylenol or Motrin to “cover the fever” just to send them to school that day.
Pediatricians have long recommended yearly flu vaccines to help protect your child and your whole family from getting influenza. This year, more than ever, getting the flu shot could help decrease the potential for two similar illnesses (i.e., influenza and coronavirus) to be circulating at the same time. The flu shot is safe, and while it isn’t always a perfect match, it gives you more fighting power against the flu than not getting the shot.
[Related: Supporting your gifted child during Covid]
Know that you aren’t alone. Children of all ages show different signs of stress — stuttering, poor sleep, poor appetite, tummy aches, acid reflux, recurrent bedwetting, poor grades, experimenting with drugs or alcohol, etc. You may feel more alone this year without your network of class parents or friends to discuss your child’s behavior. Your pediatrician is there to help and should be your resource to discuss your concerns.
This year may pose many challenges, but we all have the same goal: a healthy educational environment for your child.
Anita Chandra-Puri, MD, is a Chicago pediatrician with Northwestern Medical Group Pediatrics, as well as a mom and NPN board member.