By Dr. Sam Ogden, Alice Peck Day Memorial Hospital
The coronavirus pandemic has changed so many things in the lives of our patients and the people in our community. At Alice Peck Day Memorial Hospital (APD), we follow the American Academy of Pediatrics’ (AAP) recommendations and agree that one thing hasn’t changed: children still need their wellness check-ups. In fact, the AAP encourages families to keep visiting their primary care provider during the pandemic to keep children healthy and on schedule.
We also follow the CDC guidelines and recommend the following five behaviors to stay safe. While coronavirus is no laughing matter, it may be useful to make a game of these behaviors to help your children turn them into habits.
FIVE SAFE BEHAVIORS
- Wash hands well, for at least 20 seconds, and wash them often, especially after being in public and after blowing the nose or coughing and sneezing. If soap and water aren’t available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. (Baby wipes may make hands look clean, but they’re not designed to remove germs from your hands.) Young children learn by imitating the behaviors of adults in their lives. When you make handwashing part of your routine, you’re setting an example for your children to follow. Make it fun: start with a hand washing chart to mark and give kids a sticker for remembering to wash; sing “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” while washing; use bar soap in fun shapes like zoo animals or cars and trucks.
- Keep at least six feet of physical (social) distance between others when outside of your home and always avoid close contact with people who are sick. Make it fun: tell your kids to pretend they have a 12-foot invisible bubble around them in public. That bubble shouldn’t touch anyone they don’t live with. If it does touch someone, it’s time to wash hands again and make sure that your face is covered while inside of the bubble.
- Everyone should wear a mask in public settings and when around people who don’t live in your household, especially when other physical distancing measures are difficult. Make it fun: remind your kids that super heroes wear masks and find masks with characters or designs your children love. Unicorns and Ironman come to mind. Remember, masks should not be placed on young children under age 2, anyone who has trouble breathing, is unconscious, or is otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance.
- Cleaning isn’t a joy for most of us, but please clean and disinfect all frequently touched surfaces every day. Make it fun: try making a game out of who can clean all the doorknobs in the house before lunch or who can clean the countertops best.
- Stay at home when sick, except to get medical care. Make it fun: unwrap a fresh box of crayons or markers; read books to each other; make and eat homemade popsicles; find out how many licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop; or finally share your favorite childhood movie (the Never Ending Story, ET, and The Goonies come to my mind.) Use screen time to your advantage as a family. For young children, this means high quality, educational television that model positive behavior and teach life lessons (for example, PBS, Daniel Tiger, Franklin the Turtle, Berenstain Bears, etc.). For older children, inspirational, sports or teamwork themed videos can help to provide a different perspective on the world during a challenging time, and if choosing a classic throwback video from your own childhood, it can really bring parents and older children together. It can also allow you to reinforce the lessons they are seeing, and bring them to life in your day to day experience as a family. Avoid movies or shows that can create or reinforce fears. Simple, unmonitored internet video surfing can seem the most entertaining, but it is generally quite unhelpful in the end, as it can contribute to poor behaviors, and even create risky exposures without the appropriate child safety measures in place.
Remember that children need care, especially when times are uncertain. We are here to help. Your health care team can examine your child, give health advice, and even discuss coronavirus.
It may help parents to keep in mind that:
- Hospitals and doctors are prepared to treat people who get sick.
- Vaccines were created to stop dangerous infections. They are still important today.
- We do not want to get through coronavirus and have a measles epidemic so be sure to continue to see your pediatrician.
- The governors of New Hampshire and Vermont have issued guidance on how public schools should reopen. Essentially, each district must establish protocols to ensure the safety of students and staff. I know there is a lot of anxiety about returning to school. Remember, it’s your right to review your school’s plan to reduce risk.
- While there is currently no vaccine to prevent coronavirus, the best way to prevent becoming ill with it is by avoiding exposure to the virus. So please do your best to keep yourself and your children safe, adopt the five safe behaviors, and never hesitate to reach out to your health care team and pediatrician. We are always here to help!
Samuel Ogden, MD, is a pediatrician welcoming patients at Alice Peck Day Memorial Hospital’s Multi-Specialty Clinic in Lebanon, N.H. He earned his MD at Albany Medical College and completed his residency at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center. Since 1932, Alice Peck Day Memorial Hospital (APD) has been a nonprofit, community-based health care organization whose mission is to improve the health and well-being of our community. APD cares for more than 20,000 patients annually and has a strong reputation for personalized attention. Since joining the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health system in 2016, APD has been able to integrate our electronic health record along with other services to better serve our patients. Please visit AlicePeckDay.org for more information, and join us on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, twitter and YouTube.