Despite rising COVID-19 cases, pediatricians argue “parents should send their children back to school.”
With winter break just about wrapped up, parents are rushing out to get kids tested for COVID-19 and some school systems around the region are delaying their return back to the classroom to either give students more time to get a test result or to allow any new infections that were spread around winter break to subside.
Regardless, for one reason or another, many parents around the region are going to be anxious about the weeks ahead, whether it’s what their child might be facing when they return to the classroom, or simply because their kid can’t get back into a classroom.
“All parents need to continue to be vigilant, and certainly to stay on top of all of the information that’s coming out,” said Dr. Anisha Abraham, who is the acting chief of adolescent medicine at Children’s National Hospital.
“The best advice that we have is to continue to ensure that your kids are vaccinated or boosted. I would also mention that this is a good time to consider getting an influenza, or flu shot, as well.”
Colds and flus are respiratory illnesses that circulate commonly around schools every winter; more and more pediatricians are starting to concede that strains of COVID could be added to that mix.
“We do need to normalize this as something we are all going to get and that is going to be around for a while,” said Dr. Katie Edwards, the medical director at Annapolis Pediatrics.
“There is a time every year where half the kids in my kids’ class are absent with flu or some other respiratory illness. Kids have been spreading things for a really long time. This is a particularly dangerous virus, but it’s not actually dangerous for the kids as much. Flu is more dangerous for kids.”
Kids will return to school and spread the virus, she said, but kids getting vaccinated has helped to cut the quarantine time to five days.
“Parents should send their children back to school with masks and with vaccines for those who are available,” Edwards said.
She also said parents should “expect that their kid is going to get sick with the same type of illness that they get sick with every year.”
“I feel like that sounds kind of defeatist,” she said. “But I just really feel like we’re at a point where we need to normalize this.”
But it shouldn’t be lost that having vaccines, and new antiviral drugs, as well as more information about the virus and how and when it’s transmitted is a really big deal too.
“There’s going to be these little incremental changes” that help mitigate the impact over time, Edwards said.
And it’s becoming clearer that the virus is probably never going to disappear completely, so that has to change your way of thinking too.
“As a pediatrician it’s really important for kids to have that time where they’re back in schools and learning,” said Dr. Abraham. “We know that when schools went virtual and at other times it was very hard for many kids to be out of school.”
Which then gets into one of her other concerns too: the mental health of children.
“For many kids … they’re also dealing with issues related to anxiety and depression and handling uncertainty,” Abraham said.
“This is an important time to talk to your kids … and certainly ask how they’re feeling, to understand how they’re dealing with perhaps any changes. If they’re feeling down or really anxious these are also good times to talk to your health care provider.”
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