A Pediatrician's Advice on Getting Kids Ready to Go Back to School During a Pandemic
By Joseph DelGiorno, MD, Pediatrician
Amid the concern and confusion brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) announced that it was strongly advocating for students to go back to school this fall with a goal of minimizing, but not eliminating, infection risks.
The reason behind this announcement is tied to the important role schools play in the overall well-being and development of young children and teens. Beyond academics and other benefits, this includes:
- Developing social and emotional skills
- Providing a safe environment and access to reliable nutrition
- Offering speech and mental health therapies
- Encouraging physical activity through gym and recess
Recently, the AAP provided schools with clinical guidance on how to open safely. Pediatricians are well aware, however, that this policy doesn’t adequately address all parents’ questions and fears. In response, we’re recommending that parents contact their child’s primary care physician to schedule a school physical or well visit and to discuss any of the concerns they may have.
Schedule your child’s routine check-ups
Now is the best time to schedule your child’s well visit, as appointments are more available. It’s also a good time catch up on necessary vaccines, as well as to schedule routine dental and eye exams.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported that pediatric vaccines declined sharply because of this pandemic. These vaccines provide vital protection against life-threatening diseases including polio, measles, and pertussis (whooping cough). It’s critically important for communities to maintain high rates of vaccination in order to prevent another disease outbreak.
Here are the current CDC guidelines for routine immunizations:
- Recommended vaccines for infants and children birth to age 6
- Recommended vaccines for adolescents and teens age 7 to 18
In addition, annual flu shots are extremely important in helping prevent or minimize illness caused by the influenza virus. Most flu vaccines become available in late August, so make it a priority to schedule your child’s flu shot this fall.
Start with a telehealth visit, if necessary
One benefit of this pandemic is that we’ve all gotten more comfortable using telehealth, or video visits, to talk with our doctors. Of course, your child’s well visit and vaccinations will need to take place in the office; however, telehealth visits are the ideal way to address minor conditions such as rashes and insect bites, or mental health issues such as anxiety or ADHD. Telehealth also is the perfect way to discuss questions and concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic such as exposure risks or the need for your child to be tested.
Using a telehealth visit, you also can talk with the doctor about the safety protocols used in the office, should an in-person visit be required. All medical practices are using the strictest safety protocols including:
- Requiring masks or face coverings
- Screening for fever or COVID-19 symptoms before anyone enters the practice
- Limiting people allowed to attend the visit with the child
- Providing contactless check in and check out
- Implementing deep cleaning of all patient rooms between visits and cleaning frequently touched surfaces
Most important, stay in touch with your doctor
There’s no doubt that this pandemic has had a huge impact on our society and everyday life. Nevertheless, the situation continues to evolve and change rapidly, so it’s imperative that you stay in touch with your primary care physician for the most up-to-date recommendations and guidelines. As doctors, we’re here to answer all of your questions and help you keep your family healthy, as well as provide support and guidance to you and your loved ones during these most challenging times.
Don’t wait—call 888-847-8823 to make an in-office or telehealth appointment with your child’s doctor today.
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Updated July 14, 2020