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Monday Medical: Safer at home and the outdoors with your kids

Susan Cunningham
For Steamboat Pilot & Today

From social distancing to wearing a mask in public places, this summer looks look different for everyone, including kids.

Dr. Dana Fitzgerald, a pediatrician in Steamboat Springs and a member of the medical staff at UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center, describes what you need to know about COVID-19 restrictions and your kids, below.

Protective measures

“We’re really lucky here in Routt County to have lower levels of infection than other parts of the country,” Fitzgerald said. “Opening things up and letting kids hang out together is okay, but it’s still important to take protective measures.”

That means following Routt County’s Five Commitments to Containment:

  • Keep a distance of 6 feet from other people.
  • Wash your hands often.
  • Wear a face covering in public places and when you can’t social distance.
  • Stay home if you’re at sick or at risk.
  • Get tested if you have symptoms of the virus.

“Make sure kids understand that social distancing and handwashing are still really important,” Fitzgerald said. “And if they do go into buildings, make sure they’ve got their masks.”

To visualize how far 6 feet is, kids can hold their arms out and check that they don’t touch, or imagine there’s a ski between them. Colorful masks can help make mask-wearing more palatable, and washing hands should be a constant habit.

It’s also a good time to remind kids not to share their things, especially water bottles, and to always sneeze into their elbows, not their hands.

“Remind kids about these things daily,” Fitzgerald said. “It’s such a new thing for them to think about, it’s important to get that reminder every day.”

The emotional aspect

Kids are adaptable, and most kids have taken recent changes in stride.

“From an emotional standpoint, I feel most kids are doing OK now,” Fitzgerald said. “It was really tough in quarantine — it was so different right away, and kids couldn’t understand that everything changed on a dime. Now, most kids get that there’s a virus, and we don’t want to get people sick, and so we have to do these things to protect ourselves and those around us.”

If your child is struggling with the recent changes, don’t hesitate to talk with your health care provider about your concerns.

What can my kids do?

As restrictions begin to ease, kids are able to spend time with friends or a babysitter and attend camps, all still while taking the necessary precautions.

“Camps have been doing a really smart job of decreasing risk as best as possible and balancing that with getting kids outside and socializing,” Fitzgerald said.

But just how many of the allowed activities parents choose to let their kids do is a personal decision.

“Part of it comes down to a family’s level of comfort,” Fitzgerald said. “If a parent is undergoing chemotherapy or is immunocompromised, or if an elderly person is living in the house, they may want to be a bit more careful about where their kids are going.”

Are my kids at risk?

“The latest studies suggest that for the vast majority of children, if they do get this, it’s a mild disease,” Fitzgerald said.

Some children, including babies younger than 1 and children with underlying health issues, may be at higher risk.

The severe inflammatory disease that affected some children, first in New York, remains very rare, but Fitzgerald points out that if infection levels increase, those cases could increase as well.

Still, helping to reduce the spread of the virus is important.

“Keeping infection levels low is beneficial for everyone in the community,” Fitzgerald said.

What if my child gets sick?

Fitzgerald recommends that children who get sick and have symptoms of COVID-19 are tested for the virus.

“If your kid has a fever, make sure they get tested,” Fitzgerald said. “Catching a coronavirus infection quickly is really important for keeping everybody safe.”

Your medical provider can help determine whether your child should be seen in the office and can help you navigate the testing process.

While some of these measures can be difficult or feel strange, Fitzgerald encourages parents to remember that they help.

“These little things we do add up and make a difference,” Fitzgerald said.

Susan Cunningham writes for UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center. She can be reached at cunninghamsbc@gmail.com.


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