Tips from a pediatrician on caring for kids during the COVID-19 pandemic
Many in the community have asked about taking care of children during the COVID-19 outbreak. Grand River Health consulted with Pediatrician Dr. Colby Quintenz, who answered many of our parents’ most frequently asked questions. We hope this will help parents navigate these uncertain times and help put their minds at ease.
Luckily, kids are doing very well with COVID. The latest data shows children with infection points to nearly 100% recovering from the COVID-19 illness.
Our goal as physicians during this time is trying to keep everyone out of the hospital and clinics if they do not need to be seen urgently.
Home management of symptoms is the way to go for most cases. The following things are important:
• Staying well hydrated.
• Any fluid is better than none.
• If kids have vomiting or significant diarrhea, an electrolyte solution such as Pedialyte can help with this.
Kids who don’t like the taste or won’t drink it can have water (over the age of 4 months), formula or milk. Even sugary fluids like juices and milkshakes are OK, during illnesses, if it encourages kids to drink more fluids.
It is not unusual to see children not eat much when they feel ill. This is expected and no great cause for concern or alarm. As long as kids are staying hydrated with fluids, allow them to return to solid foods once they feel better.
Runny nose and congestion are not top symptoms of COVID but lots of other viruses cause this. If your young child has congestion, I recommend a nasal aspirator if your child has trouble breathing through the nose, difficulty settling down to sleep, or trouble drinking because of congestion.
Coughs can come from a variety of illnesses, and kids don’t do great with cough medicines. Natural remedies including steam, humidifier, honey (over the age of 1) or a natural cough medication such as Zarbees can help a bit.
Fevers are best treated with acetaminophen/Tylenol. There is some question about the use of ibuprofen/Advil/Motrin in COVID patients. This has not been formally studied or recommended against. It seems reasonable to treat fever with acetaminophen first and move to ibuprofen only if needed.
As with all illnesses, children should be seen by their doctors for signs of dehydration such as dry mouth/lips, decreased urine production (less than 3-4 wet diapers in 24 hours), or not making tears.
Signs of more serious respiratory illness would include difficulty breathing or speaking, heaving belly or chest with breathing, or sucking in below or between the ribs. Breathing fast can happen with fever — if it does not improve with treatment of fever, please get it checked out.
Fever itself is not necessarily a reason to be seen. Exceptions would be very young children under the age of 3 months or fever for more than 3-5 days or over 105 degrees.
Children are naturally nervous about all the changes now occurring in their daily lives. It is always a safe bet to open the conversation by sharing our own feelings and asking if they have questions or would like to talk. Children should be reassured that if they get coronavirus they will not be very sick. They should also be reminded that we are all staying home right now because germs spread if we go around other people, and it’s our job to help other people stay healthy as well as ourselves.
There are tons of sources for educational and entertainment options for kids while we’re all staying home. Khan Academy is a great resource for education content, and outschool.com has made online classes free.
Art for kids hub on Youtube has free drawing lessons for kids. Audible is offering free children’s books. Numerous museums, libraries and other organizations are offering free content to explore at home.
This is a great time to start a relaxation program for the whole family to manage increased stress. I have attached a resource list from Julie Spies, one of Grand River’s Health counselors for mindfulness apps/websites. I personally like the Calm app and Mindfulness app.
Also, don’t forget that physical activity is a great way to beat anxiety and restlessness at home. Family walks, bike rides and hikes are strongly encouraged. Just be respectful and stay 6 feet away from other groups at all times.
Grand River Health serves western Garfield County, Colorado. For more information, please visit http://www.grandriverhealth.org.
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