• Kenneth Mims

10 Tips to Keep Families Healthy While School’s Out

While adults make up most of the known COVID-19 cases to date, we know families are concerned about their children’s health and that children with mild or no symptoms can put others at risk. Here are some suggestions from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for keeping families healthy and preventing the virus spreading to others who are at risk.

1. Teach and reinforce everyday preventive actions. Clean hands often with soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Make handwashing a family activity. Avoid people who are coughing and sneezing. Each day, clean and sanitize high-touch areas— tables, hard-backed chairs, doorknobs, light switches, remotes, consoles, handles, desks, toilets, sinks). Launder items (including washable plush toys) using the warmest appropriate water setting for the items and dry items completely. The CDC says dirty laundry from an ill person can be washed with other items.

2. Watch your child for any signs of illness. If you see any sign of illness consistent with symptoms of COVID-19, particularly fever, cough, or shortness of breath, keep your child at home and away from others as much as possible. Follow CDC’s guidance on “What to do if you are sick.” There is much more to be learned about COVID-19 and its impact on children, but keep an eye on those with underlying conditions like asthma.

3. Know that children with COVID-19 may have no symptoms or mild symptoms. When ill children do exhibit symptoms, they may show some of the same symptoms as adults, including fever, runny nose, tightness in the chest or difficulty breathing, and cough. Vomiting and diarrhea also have been reported.

4. Children infected with the virus— but with no symptoms or mild symptoms— can pass the virus to others. Limit time with older adults and people who have serious chronic medical conditions. If others in your home are at particularly high risk for severe illness from COVID-19, consider extra precautions to separate your child from those individuals, even if your child appears to be healthy with no symptoms.

5. If you are unable to stay home with your child while schools are closed, carefully consider who should provide childcare. If someone at higher risk for COVID-19 will be providing care, such as a grandparent or someone with a chronic medical condition, limit your child’s contact with that person. Make sure everyone is vigilant in handwashing, covering coughs and sneezes, disinfecting shared spaces, and keeping a distance of 6 feet.

6. Create a routine, but remain flexible. During DLD, have consistent times for your child to wake up and go to bed. While learning is an important part of a Digital Learning Day, make sure to include free time, time for healthy meals and snacks, and physical activity. When possible, maintain a routine, but also be flexible for the unexpected.

7. Be mindful of your child’s emotional needs. This is a stressful time and a big transition for the whole family. Have age-appropriate conversations. Listen to worries and concerns and be calm in your responses. Kids take their cues from the adults in their lives.

8. Limit social interactions and practice social distancing with friends and other families. Remember, if children (and adults) meet outside of school in bigger groups, it can put everyone at risk. Make sure even young children understand “the 6-foot rule” so they know not to get too close to others when out on a walk or when playing in the yard. Make sure that the adults in the family model good social distancing behavior as well.

9. Help your child stay socially connected. Consider ways your children can stay connected with their friends without spending time in person. Phone calls, video chats, and online games and activities for group play are all ways kids can connect with their peers.

10. Postpone visits or trip to see older family members and those who are at-risk, but stay connected in other ways. Help your kids connect virtually by Skype, FaceTime, or another digital option. Write cards and letters, draw pictures, or send emails.

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