Over a year into the pandemic, parents are exhausted from keeping up with news about the novel coronavirus.
More recently, there has also been a spate of scary headlines about kids and COVID-19, including reports of kids experiencing multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C), a rare complication from COVID-19, and a story about an infant who died of the virus in Oregon.
Dr. Danelle Fisher, MD, the chair of pediatrics at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California, understands the stress of parenting during the pandemic. Fisher is mom to a nine-year-old, and has been serving patients in one of the hardest-hit states.
“We are all tired. We are exhausted. We are burning the candle at both ends,” she said.
Here’s what Fisher wants parents to know about kids and the coronavirus.
Recognize the risks, but keep them in context
Whenever Fisher sees a patient, she’s extra-observant for symptoms that might indicate COVID-19 or MIS-C.
“Every time I see a patient it’s in my mind: Don’t miss it if this kid is sick,” she said.
She reminds herself to be prepared, while recognizing that in most cases, a child’s symptoms aren’t COVID-19 related.
Err on the side of caution
If parents are worried in the slightest about symptoms that may indicate COVID-19 or MIS-C, Fisher says they should call their pediatrician.
“If your child has a symptom and you are concerned, reach out and make an appointment,” she said. “We’d rather catch something early than too late.”
Parents should familiarize themselves with the symptoms of COVID-19 in children and teens, which can be different from symptoms in adults. They should also learn about the symptoms of MIS-C, and understand that MIS-C often occurs in the weeks after a COVID-19 infection.
“Kids with MIS-C are not sick during the acute time period,” Fisher said. “It seems to be after that.”
Gastrointestinal issues can indicate COVID-19 in kids
Respiratory and sensory symptoms, like the loss of taste and smell, are common indicators of a COVID-19 infection. But for kids, COVID-19 can show up with gastrointestinal symptoms like vomiting and diarrhea.
This can be tricking since vomiting and diarrhea are both common in kids. Fisher recommends that parents call a doctor if their child experiences repeated bouts of vomiting or diarrhea within a short period of time.
“If the child starts vomiting through the night or has diarrhea all day, that’s a kid I want to see,” she said.
Keep up with regularly-scheduled pediatric and dental care
Fisher has seen many parents delaying their kids’ dental and doctor check-ups because of worry over contracting the virus. It’s important to remember that pediatricians and dentists are taking the utmost care to protect young patients, she said.
“We do not advise skipping any of those visits. It’s very important to continue to maintain good health for your children,” Fisher said. “Don’t avoid it just because you’re worried about contracting COVID when you go to a physician’s office.”
If you’re concerned, reach out to your doctor to put together a plan that makes you feel safe.
School is likely safe
In Los Angeles, where Fisher lives, the debate over reopening schools has been contentious. But as a physician, she said she believes that getting kids back in the classroom is one of the most important things that we can do for children’s health.
“The forefront of my mind is that children do not seem to be super spreaders,” Fisher said. “A big issue right now is making sure that children can safely get back to school.”
Getting vaccinated helps protect your kids
There’s currently no vaccine approved for children, although clinical trials are ongoing. That makes it even more important for parents to get the COVID-19 vaccine as soon as they are eligible.
“Whenever we have a vulnerable child, we want to make sure we cocoon them by making sure we vaccinate the people around them,” she said. “If parents get the vaccine their children are going to be protected.”