Back-to-school season is here, with many children returning to in-person classes after a year of distance learning. The new school year means new supplies, clothes, faces, and even a new virus variant. As COVID-19 cases continue to surge throughout the nation, parents want to protect their kids in the classroom. Here are the top 5 things parents need to know.
1. COVID-19 doesn't discriminate.
Many people believe kids can’t get infected with COVID-19. That’s simply not true. While children typically have milder symptoms, they can still get seriously ill.
“COVID-19 is an equal-opportunity infector,” explained Mobeen Rathore, MD, chief of pediatric infectious disease and immunology at Wolfson Children’s Hospital. “Kids can get it and become very sick, just like adults.”
2. Vax up!
All adults and children 12 and older are eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, and robust research shows the vaccines to be safe and effective. Getting your preteen or teen vaccinated will not only protect him or her, but also siblings and children at school who are too young to get the shot, and the community as a whole.
To be considered, “fully vaccinated,” individuals must be two weeks out from their second dose of a two-dose regimen (Pfizer and Moderna) or two weeks removed from the only dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Currently, only the Pfizer vaccine is authorized for children as young as 12.
3. Use masks and other protective measures.
Keeping kids safe in school will require layers of protection, the most important being vaccination for those who are eligible.
Masking, physical distancing, sanitizing high-touch areas, contact tracing and proper hand hygiene remain important prevention methods, especially for those who are unvaccinated. Not only do these habits need to be highly enforced in the classroom, but adults owe it to their children to model this behavior in the correct manner.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends all children over 2 years old, along with school staff, wear masks, regardless of whether they have been vaccinated against COVID-19.
“Masking gives you more freedom, not less, because it allows you to stay healthy and hopefully live a longer, healthier life,” said Dr. Rathore.
4. Know when to keep kids home.
With the local and nationwide surge of COVID-19 cases, it is important for parents and caregivers to be on the lookout for symptoms in their children, including:
- Loss of taste and/or smell
- Shortness of breath
- Sore throat
Children exhibiting any of these symptoms should be kept home from school.
The biggest concern for children may develop 4-6 weeks after a COVID-19 infection, even one that is mild or asymptomatic. Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children, known as MIS-C, is a serious, potentially deadly condition that may lead to a shutdown of multiple organs of the body.
“Even if they don’t get sick with the initial infection, they may develop issues down the road,” Dr. Rathore said.
5. Test and protect.
If your child has been exposed or is showing symptoms, call his or her pediatrician for guidance. Additionally, the Florida Department of Health has information and locations where kids can get tested. To hear Dr. Rathore answer more questions about COVID-19, kids and school, click here.
At Baptist Health, we want to help keep our community informed about COVID-19. For more information, visit baptistjax.com/covid19. To learn more information about the COVID-19 vaccine, please visit baptistjax.com/covid19vaccine.