Keeping Children Healthy During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Olubunmi Ojikutu, MD, Pediatrician, Tower Health
While we remain diligent in the prevention and spread of COVID-19 it is also critical that children attend their routine wellness appointments. During the outbreak of COVID-19 in the United States, the American Academy of Pediatrics reported a significant decline in children getting the recommended routine vaccinations. These vaccines help protect against preventable, but serious, conditions such as measles, whooping cough, diphtheria, pertussis, and others.
Vaccines for children are on a schedule to provide optimal protection and immunity to children. Several vaccines, including hepatitis A and B, are introduced in a series; children will not be fully protected until they have received all of them, making it critical to follow the recommended schedule.
Certainly, children who do not receive the recommended vaccines are at risk for getting sick. But they may also present a risk of infection to others who for health reasons may not able to receive a vaccine. Our communities remain healthy because of “herd immunity,” which occurs when between 70 to 90 percent of the population are vaccinated against a particular disease. This makes it more difficult for the disease to spread because so many individuals are protected.
As a parent I understand how concerns of keeping your child safe against COVID-19 could impact your child’s vaccination schedule. Each day we continue to learn more about COVID-19 and are practicing safety measures to keep our young patients, their families, and our employees safe. At Tower Health, our offices are clean, safe, and ready to care for you and your children. We disinfect our offices frequently and our staff and patients are screened and masked upon arrival. We’re also staggering schedules to encourage social distancing.
While research has shown that children have been less likely to become infected with COVID-19, it’s important to remember that doesn’t make them immune to the virus. Symptoms of COVID-19 can be the same as other common viruses. Some children suffering from COVID-19 get respiratory symptoms such as cough and shortness of breath, while others get GI symptoms with vomiting and diarrhea. Most children with COVID-19 will get a fever. You should contact your child’s pediatrician if your child has a fever, is not able to drink enough fluids to stay hydrated or urinate regularly, is lethargic or irritable, has problems breathing, or a new rash - especially if it is dark red/purple or does not turn white or briefly fade when you push on it.
Some children with COVID-19 have presented with red or purple toes, referred to as ‘COVID toes.’ Recently, we have seen belly pain, with or without vomiting and diarrhea. Less common but important symptoms are chills, shivering, sore throat, muscle pain, headache, and loss of smell or taste.
Parents can also help prevent COVID-19 in children by:
- Teaching them to wash their hands for a minimum of 20 seconds;
- Teaching them to cough or sneeze into their elbow;
- Practicing proper social distancing;
- Encouraging children over 2 years of age to wear a mask in public indoor places.
As physicians we will be closely monitoring patients in our communities and around the world to ensure that the decrease in these regularly scheduled vaccinations does not lead to outbreaks of preventable diseases. Please don’t delay your child’s immunizations or healthcare needs. Tower Health facilities are clean and safe. We are here for you.
If you have additional questions or concerns, please contact your pediatrician.
Additional COVID-19 online resources include: