New mask guidelines for fully vaccinated people leave parents wondering: How can we protect young children from COVID-19?
With the rise of infections in children – in some severe cases that require hospitalization – parents should remain vigilant, said Rosemary Olivero, MD, a pediatric infectious disease specialist with Spectrum Health Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital.
“I won’t throw away your mask,” she said.
under recent guidelines Centers for Disease Control and PreventionFor Americans to be vaccinated against the virus, they do not have to wear masks outdoors and in most indoor settings.
However, vaccines are only available to people 12 years of age and older.
This means that parents with children 11 years of age and younger must carefully navigate the risks of exposure to their families.
She advises parents to continue wearing masks in many settings – even if they have been fully vaccinated – as it will make it easier for children to show the importance of wearing their own masks.
“Many children feel uncomfortable wearing masks if their parents are not there. We have to be ready to lead by example.”
She specifically recommends the use of masks in two settings:
- Any indoor setting, unless you are in your own home or with people you know are vaccinated.
- Crowded outdoor events, such as a festival, where you can’t socially distance yourself.
Dr. Olivero also recommends keeping children away from grocery stores as much as possible. Consider using curbside pickup or delivery.
And if kids go to the store, try to minimize the number of shopping trips. Wear a mask, use hand sanitizer, and teach children to avoid touching items in the store.
Playdates and Sleepovers
For kids eager to see friends, she recommends outdoor playdates.
“As a rule of thumb, outdoor playdates are fairly safe,” she said. “The data shows us that the chances of the virus spreading outside are very small.
“People probably don’t need masks if they are out and about. The farther the distance, the lesser the risk.”
But she cautions that outdoor playdates can easily move indoors. She encourages parents to set firm boundaries with other families, stressing the need to keep activities outside.
How about sleepover?
Dr. Olivero said they are not a good idea for children 11 and under.
“The highest risk for COVID-19 transmission comes with prolonged unexplained exposure. And that’s exactly what a sleepover is,” she said. “It’s not something I recommend.”
A summer camp in Georgia last year described the risks involved. After a staff member tested positive for COVID-19, the camp was closed, and 660 campers and counselors went home. Of the 344 campers tested, 76% had the virus, A. According to report by CDC.
Dr. Olivero understands the importance of sleep for babies. Her own kids would love to have sleepovers with friends.
She suggests a form of sleep deprivation. Stay together until late in the evening, enjoy a campfire or an outdoor movie.
Then go home so that everyone can sleep in their respective rooms.
For the safety of others, skip social gatherings if you are sick or if a family member is ill, he said.
COVID-19 is still circulating in the community. If you have symptoms of the virus, get tested.
risk of serious illness
A large number of children were involved in the spring increase in COVID-19 infections at Spectrum Health. Although most did not become seriously ill, some required hospitalization. In some cases, pediatric patients require life support in the intensive care unit.
Dr. Olivero said, “Out of a handful of people who came to the hospital from childhood to adulthood, the care they needed was far greater than at any other time during the pandemic.”
The number of cases peaked in April and has since declined. But the pediatric population is still “transitioning significantly,” she said.
Looking ahead next fall, she expects children to continue to require masks at school and other indoor venues.
“We need to understand that the virus is going to be part of our normal circulating virus that we see seasonally during the year,” she said. “We have to prepare for it, so we don’t set ourselves up for huge disappointment when the summer winds down and we go back to our normal routines.”
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