Nevertheless, pediatricians say there are still easy things parents can do to protect children from Covid-19, especially when they go back to school.
Her association has been following cases and found nearly 72,000 children and teens caught Covid-19 last week. This is a significant increase from the week before, about five times as many children were sick than at the end of June.
“Obviously, this variant is capable of causing serious harm to children. You heard the stories come from Louisiana pediatric ICUs where there are children all the way down to a few months old who are sick,” says Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, told CNN’s John Berman on New Day Tuesday.
“Anyone who says you should not worry about it, if you are a young healthy person, think about it.”
The first thing parents need to think about, pediatricians say, is the vaccine.
If a parent or adult in a child’s life has not been vaccinated yet, get one now, they advise. The same goes for siblings who are old enough.
Parents should also talk to children about why it is important.
“Make sure you have that conversation with them – about why it’s important to be vaccinated and how it protects not only them but everyone around them,” said Dr. Dane Snyder, Head of the Department of Primary Care Pediatrics at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio.
Parents may also want to talk to everyone who interacts with the child about their vaccination status, Maldonado said. If the person has not been vaccinated and the parent is still comfortable having them around their unvaccinated child, at least ask them to wear a mask or even consider asking them for a test before they go together.
“You wouldn’t have your child in a car where someone was driving without seat belts or without a driver’s license,” Maldonado said. “We should not be afraid to stand up for the health of our children.”
Snyder said parents should also continue to reinforce the message of good hygiene.
For example, she said parents should teach children to cough on their elbows and wash their hands.
“Hand washing is really one of the most effective ways to help prevent the spread of any kind of disease, whether at home or in the community,” Snyder said.
Masks and distance
Three feet of physical distance can reduce the spread of the virus, good ventilation helps, and masks for indoor activity are key, say public health experts.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that anyone older than 2 years wear a mask, regardless of vaccination status, when attending school.
“The data are so strong that masking remains a very effective way to prevent infection,” says Dr. Larry Kociolek, MD, Infectious Disease at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago.
According to some estimates, a mask reduces the risk of catching Covid-19 by about 50%, he said. “Masks are most effective in areas where the risk of exposure and transmission is high,” Kociolek said.
Dr. Sarah Combs, an emergency physician at Children’s National Hospital in Washington, DC, said parents can make it fun to wear a mask.
“Go ahead and get them a mask with their favorite character and tell them it’s like Superman’s mask. Do what you can to engage them, especially the younger ones who have less understanding,” Combs said.
Snyder recommends that parents talk to their children about wearing a mask at school so they know what to expect, especially if a mask is not required. “Make sure you talk to kids about assuming things about kids who are either disguised or not,” Snyder said.
As for parents and masks, Dr. suggests. Amy Edwards, associate medical director of pediatric infection control at UH Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital in Cleveland, said even vaccinated parents should wear a mask when out in public. “That way, they will be less likely to incur Covid and bring it home,” Edwards said.
Out of time
The risk of getting covid-19 is much lower if the child is playing outdoors.
Edwards said she only limits her own children to outdoor play with their friends. “It’s fine to play with the neighbors’ children, but only outside in the yard, not inside the playroom or in the bedroom or anything like that, where there is closer indoor contact – which is a bigger problem,” she said.
With older children liking video games, Edwards said a parent could set time for them to stream together even when they were in different rooms.
“Try to think of creative ways in which children can play together, but limit their exposure,” Edwards said.
There is an added benefit to the outside world. “Not only is it safer from a Covid-19 point of view-physical activity is a real benefit to their health,” Kociolek said, especially in light of rising childhood obesity in the Chicago area since the pandemic began.
Talk to your children
Conversations with children about Covid-19 are crucial, pediatricians say. Children are like mushrooms, Combs said.
“Even at a very young age, they take hold of their surroundings, they take hold of your emotional signs. And if we try to keep things from children, they become more suspicious and more anxious,” Combs said.
So even a small child can understand the basics.
Edwards says she herself has talked to her children ages 2 and 4 about the Delta variant. “I’ve told them the virus has grown up and gotten a little stronger, so we have to fight a little harder,” Edwards said.
With teens, parents do not want to make them more anxious, so be sure, Combs said. It can help to recognize that it can be scary, even for parents. “It’s ok because we know things and ways to reduce the risk and help all of us in the family be safe,” Combs said.
Combs added that it is also good to encourage children to be open, especially if they are not feeling well, so that parents can keep them at home and remind the child that staying home is not a punishment – it is to protect people.
Edwards said clear communication and security are important for children.
“How many times did we say to our parents when they were growing up, ‘It’s not fair,’ and our parents would tell us, ‘Life is not fair?’” Edwards said. “For children, this pandemic is the ultimate ‘life is not fair’. We need to let them know we are doing what we can to help them.”