The weather is changing, summer is over, and – as in years past – kids are going back to school. However, we all know that 2020 isn’t like every other year. Your children probably finished their last school year remotely; and as they return, they can expect a lot of changes in the effort to restrict the spread of COVID-19.
Whether this is your child’s first year in school or they are returning to a new grade level, the new school year is always met with hopeful anticipation and a little stress for both students and parents. This year, wondering about new teachers, new classmates, and a new curriculum will be accompanied by wondering how the COVID-19 pandemic will affect the school year and the health and well-being of everyone within the walls of the schools, as well as their families.
The best way to tackle any new challenge is to be informed, have a plan, and know where you can turn for help. At FamilyCare of Kent, our nurse practitioners have the utmost concern for the health of your family, and we are here to help you and your children have a successful and healthy school year.
What Is COVID-19?
Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a very contagious disease caused by a virus. It is called a “novel” disease because although the virus – which is also called SARS-CoV-2 – had been seen in animals in the past, this is the first time that humans have been infected with it. Medical professionals are still learning about all of its effects and how best to treat it.
This coronavirus is easily spread by respiratory droplets from person to person. When someone who is infected with the virus coughs, sneezes, or even talks or exhales, these droplets that contain the virus can travel through the air and infect other people by getting in their nose, mouth, or eyes. The greatest risk is when infected people are indoors and near others. Of course, the virus can even be passed outdoors or when touching a surface that has a droplet on it, but close proximity and being inside appear to pose the greatest risk.
Most people don’t get severely ill from COVID-19, but it can cause pneumonia along with other serious problems. On the other hand, it isn’t always easy to tell who has the illness, because symptoms do not start until a few days after a person has become infected. Plus, some people have no symptoms at all.
If symptoms do occur, they might include:
- Trouble breathing
- Muscle aches
- Sore throat
- Runny nose
- Stomach pain
- Feeling tired
- Loss of the sense of smell or taste
If you or your children experience any of these symptoms, please call us so that we can guide you through your next steps. You should keep your child home from school until we can determine whether they have COVID-19. Treatment is often just time, rest, and over-the-counter medications, but our nurse practitioners will be there to guide you every step of the way – and to provide more extensive treatment if needed.
Are We at Risk of the Coronavirus?
To be clear, everyone is at risk of catching this virus, but not everyone is at risk of getting seriously ill. Most people will feel like they have a cold or have no symptoms at all. Only about 2-4% of children with COVID-19 have been hospitalized in the United States, but most of the hospitalized children already have underlying health conditions that make them more vulnerable to the virus.
While most children do not have the medical problems that would put them at risk for developing a serious case of COVID-19, you or other family members may, so knowing your family’s risk will also guide your actions. Anyone with a history of heart disease, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, sickle cell anemia, lung disease, cancer, kidney disease, obesity, or smoking may develop a more severe reaction from COVID-19.
This is not the time to have family gatherings or visiting friends where people who don’t live in your home are coming in and out of the house, because this is how the virus tends to spread most easily. Most children who have COVID-19 were exposed at home, but any environment can pose some risk. As schools are opening again, there have been cases where kids have been exposed there and have then tested positive for the disease. Adult teachers or staff may pass the virus to students. Children can pass the virus to other children or adults, but this seems to be rare, especially in younger children. The older a child is, especially beginning with adolescence, the easier transmission seems to occur.
School Safety in a Pandemic
You can expect safety at school to be an extension of what you’ve been told throughout the summer in terms of staying safe during this viral pandemic. Staying at least 6 feet away from others, wearing masks, handwashing, and keeping your hands away from your face are all extremely important ways to avoid infection.
Your school will probably have worked out ways for your kids to frequently wash their hands, put on hand sanitizer, stay separated from others, and take safe mask breaks. Most schools will be limiting class size, rearranging desks, and even constructing physical separation with plexiglass partitions to keep your kids safe. You may wonder how in the world your kids will cope with this and follow the rules, but kids constantly amaze us. The biggest advice we can offer is to stay in communication with your child’s school and to prepare your kids for what to expect.
Your child’s age will determine how to best help them comply with these new social rules. Young children love to please, so praise them. Have them practice wearing masks before they go to school, and teach them new and safe ways to greet their friends and teachers. Even making games out of wearing masks, washing hands, and avoiding touching their face will make this fun for them.
If your kids are older, they have the ability to problem-solve and will understand the importance of following safety protocols. Teenagers often think they’re invincible, but you can remind them that their teachers and other family members may not be. Give them the incentive to help others by being a leader and role model if that would motivate them.
Whatever the challenges, you know your children best and will find the answers to help them succeed. This school year may be different than others and we will all need to be flexible, but we all want your kids to grow academically, socially, and emotionally this year. If you have any concerns, or if you need any tips on how to keep your kids safe in school this year, our nurse practitioners can provide you expert advice or even talk with your child to help them navigate the challenges of a school year during a pandemic.
Handling the Virus with Friends and Families
Open communication with your child is extremely important during this pandemic. Be sure to explain to them the reasons behind social distancing and masks. Answer their questions with respect. Remind them that they are protecting others – teachers, friends, and family members who may be at higher risk of developing a bad reaction to the virus. You might even practice scenarios at home, so they are prepared when they get to school.
When they get home at the end of each school day, talk to them about their day. What went well? Were there any challenges or issues? Help them problem-solve and encourage them. If your child has questions that you can’t answer, or challenges that need innovative solutions, please call us. We’re here to offer advice and guidance.
Coping with Anxiety
Every child is different, and different-aged children respond to stress differently. Social interaction is important at every stage of development from preschool to high school, and changes in the school environment will require adaptation and flexibility. The COVID-19 pandemic has had a global effect on mental health, with increases in anxiety and depression.
Watch for signs that your child is having difficulty coping. Younger children might regress to behaviors that they’ve already outgrown, or they may have more separation anxiety when going into the school. Teenagers may withdraw or they may act out. If you notice changes in your child’s behavior, try to get them to talk to you. Acknowledge their feelings and let them know that you are there for them.
If you are feeling anxious yourself, try not to share this with your kids but tell them that you understand that this is a stressful time for them, and help them find areas of their school life that they have control over. If you have any concerns that your child is having trouble coping, call us at FamilyCare of Kent. We may advise that you bring your child in so that we have the opportunity to talk with them and to determine the severity of their anxiety or depression. If they simply need some help with coping strategies, our nurse practitioners can help them with that; but if it is more serious, we can also provide the treatment options that are right for your child.
A Phone Call Away from Help
At FamilyCare of Kent, we are board-certified family nurse practitioners. We have the knowledge and expertise to address all of your family’s healthcare needs. That includes answering any questions you have about COVID-19 or treating your child if they become ill. It also includes protecting you from common seasonal illnesses like the flu. This year, it is more important than ever that your family receive your annual flu vaccine, so call us to schedule an appointment.
If your child is experiencing fever, chills, a cough, a runny nose, irritability, fatigue, sore throat, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, a stomachache, headaches, or trouble smelling or tasting, don’t send them to school – and please call us so that we can talk about how they are feeling and whether you think they were exposed to the coronavirus. During this call, we can determine if your child needs to be tested, if they need to be seen urgently, or if you can monitor and care for them at home. We will also offer you guidance on how to quarantine and protect your whole family.
The family nurse practitioners at FamilyCare of Kent are always here to help your family with all of their healthcare needs. As your children return to school in this new environment, we want to help your family stay healthy and to give you peace of mind.
If you have any questions about COVID-19 or any other health-related issues, please don’t hesitate to call us. To meet with any of our exceptional family healthcare providers, call (253) 859-2273 today, or request an appointment now by filling out our online form. We look forward to seeing you!