The coronavirus pandemic has spread over the world like rapid fire, and it has become the subject of most news headlines and social conversations. With all that’s going on, parents will find a hard time understanding what they need to do to keep their children safe and away from the virus.
Thus, Justin Smith M.D., a pediatrician and the Medical Advisor for Digital Health in Cook Children’s, has taken the time to explain in detail what parents need to know about COVID-19.
For starters, there has not been a single case of coronavirus at Cook Children’s. The other good news is based on confirmed cases of the virus around the world, kids have been relatively protected from serious illness. Children seem less likely to get infected than adults and if they do get it, it is usually a mild case.
What is the “Coronavirus?”
COVID-19 is a novel respiratory coronavirus which most often presents with symptoms of fever, coughing and shortness of breath. The rapid spread throughout China (and now outside of China) as well as the significant percentage of cases that result in severe illness is what makes COVID-19 a particular concern.
How do I take care of myself and my kids?
Currently, there is no vaccine to prevent COVID-19. So for now, the best way to prevent infection is to take the following precautions:
Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
To add to the previous bullet, the World Health Organization states that “there are some chemical disinfectants that can kill the 2019-nCOV on surfaces. These include bleach/chlorine based disinfectants, either solvents, 75% ethanol, peracetic acid and chloroform.” Click here for the EPA’s registered antimicrobial products for use against Novel Coronavirus report.
But it’s important to add: “However, they have little or no impact on the virus if you put them on the skin or under your nose. It can even be dangerous to put these chemicals on your skin.”
What about masks?
Should you wear one or not wear one? The CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) doesn’t recommend the routine use of respirators (or masks) outside of workplace settings (in the community).
“Most often, spread of respiratory viruses from person-to-person happens among close contacts (within 6 feet). CDC recommends everyday preventive actions to prevent the spread of respiratory viruses, such as avoiding people who are sick, avoiding touching your eyes or nose, and covering your cough or sneeze with a tissue. People who are sick should stay home and not go into crowded public places or visit people in hospitals. Workers who are sick should follow CDC guidelines and stay home when they are sick.”
So, what can you do to prepare?
Preparation is good advice in general for any new and emerging infectious disease, and not just dealing with the novel coronavirus. Preparation and thinking around the status of coronavirus could be divided into three categories:
Preparation Right Now
Based on the current status, the following suggestions can be universally applied at relatively low cost. They could prevent problems down the road should an outbreak occur.
- Gather medical supplies and prescriptions that you might need in advance. Children with chronic medical conditions should have enough supplies to last a few weeks in case the local spread develops rapidly, and doctors or pharmacies are overwhelmed. Parents of children with chronic respiratory conditions, such as asthma, should especially consider this option.
- Having some non-perishable food on hand to minimize trips outside is something relatively easy to do. At the same time, we wait to see what develops.
- Reinforce with your children hand-washing, cough and sneeze hygiene and continue to develop good habits of staying home while sick.
- Healthcare workers should discuss with their institution the efforts that are taking place to protect them from spread should their medical center have cases.
What to do in case of a community spread of the novel coronavirus?
If one of the local populations of COVID-19 infections includes your area, some other things might help or be asked of you:
Schools, churches, employers and other places where people gather in large numbers should be prepared to allow individuals, who have the ability, to work from home.
. If the virus is spreading throughout a community, minimizing contact between community members may be a strategy employed.
Reach out to your health care providers if you think you or your child might have COVID-19, so that they can guide you to the right place and prepare for your visit. In the case of local spread, a non-essential visit to health care facilities may be postponed, so call ahead.
Use common sense when evaluating claims of products on the market for treatment or prevention of disease. Unfortunately, many will use this vulnerable time to take advantage of scared members of their community.
The local public health departments will be the ultimate source of the best information regarding the spread of the virus and recommendations regarding novel coronavirus.
What to do in case of a widespread outbreak of the novel coronavirus?
Should the number of cases expand rapidly or broadly, further precautions will be undertaken.
Minimize contact with others whenever possible to help avoid the spread of the virus.
For more information about Cook Children’s Health Care System in English visit: https://www.cookchildrens.org/international