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How Parents Can Keep their Kids Happy and Healthy during COVID-19

The 2019 Novel Coronavirus Disease, also known as COVID-19, is “novel” because it’s new. It has never been seen in humans before, and because of this, medical professionals do not yet understand the extent of the disease. 

What do they know for certain?

The virus was initially transferred from a live animal to a human, but now it is being transferred from human to human. The virus transfers easily and quickly. Symptoms appear between two to 14 days after exposure. Some common symptoms are fever, cough and shortness of breath. Most people have mild symptoms and can recover at home. Some people experience severe symptoms and need to visit a hospital. People should seek medical help if they experience shortness of breath, chest pain, confusion, lethargy, or bluish lips and/or face. 

Indy’s Child recently spoke with Dr. Anna Gilley of Carmel Pediatrics about what parents can do to keep their children emotionally and physically healthy during these uncertain times.

Dr. Anna Gilley

There have been many reports that it does not seem to be affecting children in the same way as it is affecting adults, is that true?

There are many things that we still don’t know about Covid 19. We have some limited evidence that children do not appear to be at a higher risk for becoming ill like adults would. There are some cases of children becoming ill, but adults make up most of the cases to date. Older adults and people with underlying medical conditions like heart disease, diabetes or lung disease are at highest risk. 

What can parents do to protect their kids from the virus?

Parents and kids need to stay home. Do not go visit friends, family, even grandparents. We all need to wash our hands frequently with soap and water for 20 seconds- sing the Happy Birthday song twice. Kids and adults should avoid touching eyes, nose, and mouth. We should cover our cough and sneezes, and we should immediately wash our hands after coughing or sneezing. Finally, we should clean and disinfect our daily touched surfaces.

What can parents do if their kids get sick with the virus? 

The most important thing is to quarantine them, if possible, at home. Designate a sick room and, if possible, have them use one bathroom. Watch them closely and call your doctor if they have trouble breathing, chest pain, bluish lips, any new confusion or lethargy, or if parents have any other concerns. 

Any advice on how to talk to our kids about the virus?  

The most important thing to do is to stay calm. You should listen to your children’s concerns, address their concerns and then reassure them. Be honest and accurate. Try to focus on the positive around us. Kids thrive on routine, so try to maintain a daily routine. Limiting social media and news reports will decrease their anxiety and fears. We are role models, and children will follow what we do and demonstrate. We should be demonstrating social distancing, and we should be modeling proper hand washing. We should also model calmness and positivity. Most importantly for your child’s emotional health, give your children a lot of love and affection.

Any advice on how to make this time at home as mentally and physically healthy as possible?

If possible, play outside and go for walks. Play an instrument and/or listen to music. Encourage your children to write a story. Ask them to write letters to grandparents, friends, and family. Try to keep a regular exercise routine at home. Eat healthy snacks and meals. Write your thoughts and feelings in a journal. 

Speaking of mental health, are there any red flags that parents should look for in their children or teens during this time at home? 

Every child is different and they all demonstrate stress and anxiety in different ways. If children start demonstrating significant behavior changes, please call your doctor to discuss. Warning signs for each age group are different. Preschoolers can start sucking their thumb, wetting their bed, having sleep disturbances, loss of appetite, fear of the dark, or any regression of behavior. Older children can start becoming irritable, aggressive, or demonstrate poor concentration. They can have nightmares too. Teenagers can demonstrate sleeping and/or eating disturbances, start demonstrating delinquent behavior, loss of concentration, or they can have an increase in physical complaints. Please do not hesitate to call your pediatrician with any concerns. 

Any other advice?

A great resource is the CDC website. They have wonderful resources and can answer many questions. These might be some useful pages to start with: 

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