Wash your hands. Don’t touch your face. Cough into a tissue that you immediately discard. Stay home.
By now, we’ve all heard the advice from government and health officials regarding COVID-19, also known as the coronavirus, but when it comes to safeguarding yourself and your children, proper hygiene — and a sense of calm — go a long way.
This is a fast-moving and ever-changing challenge, so I have been telling parents to check in with cdc.gov for updated information. In addition, there are some pieces of universal advice that I hope can be helpful in answering parents’ most pressing questions.
How would I know if my child has COVID-19?
Symptoms in children are generally mild and look a lot like the common cold: fever, runny nose, cough and some gastrointestinal symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhea.
What treatments are available if my child develops COVID-19?
As of this writing, there are no antiviral drugs recommended or licensed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for COVID-19.
While it’s natural to plan for what to do in case a family member becomes ill, I have been reminded that parents take the more effective route of preventing disease, rather than treating it. Cover coughs with elbows or tissues, wash hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds (long enough to sing “Happy Birthday” twice) or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, and stay current on vaccinations, including the flu shot.
Should I cancel my child’s routine check-up?
If you have questions about your child’s medical care, it’s best to contact your pediatrician directly. That said, in addition to thorough hand-washing and keeping a distance from sick people, one of the best ways to prevent illness is by staying current on your vaccines. So, if you are thinking of postponing your child’s scheduled immunizations out of concern for the coronavirus, check with your pediatrician first.
It might also be helpful to know that local hospitals and medical practices are working with the Orange County Health Care Agency, the California Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to stay up to date on the situation. At Hoag, for instance, we have a world-class Infection Prevention team leading robust efforts, including education, training and drills.
Will a face mask help?
Not likely. The CDC recommends face masks only for people who show symptoms of COVID-19 to help prevent the spread of the disease to others. Buying face masks that you don’t need can also jeopardize the supply for health workers and other care providers who do need them.
I am pregnant. What do I need to know?
For any questions regarding your health and the health of your unborn child, please contact your obstetrician. The CDC’s information about COVID-19 and pregnancy is unfortunately limited. What is known is that high fevers during the first trimester of pregnancy can cause complications, so it is important for pregnant women to use all precautions to avoid illness.
What is your response to parents not taking the stay-in orders seriously — for example, kids still going to skateparks and families at the beach, causing cities to close them?
Since there is no known effective treatment and no vaccine, the only thing that will reduce the spread in our community is social distancing. This includes following the governor’s order to avoid gathering in crowds and public spaces.
We’re now seeing that younger people have gotten pretty sick in some cases. What should people know about this?
While people over 50 with co-morbidities tend to suffer the most serious consequences of this infection, it can really hit any age group. Just because you are young and healthy does not mean that you will not get sick, or possibly get seriously ill from this virus.
The coronavirus is contagious, but so is fear. Clean hands and cool heads will go a long way toward protecting children from the disease, as well as from anxiety.
Dr. Philip Robinson, M.D., is the medical director of Infection Prevention at Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian.