Pediatricians Answer Common Questions About Children’s Health
Having a child means that you will have health care questions, and COVID-19 makes things even more complicated. We asked Drs. Danielle Morgan and Ryan Mundy with Premiere Pediatrics of Bixby to answer a few general questions about children’s health.
1. Is it okay to take my child for well-child visits during the pandemic? Should my child be getting regular vaccines? Should my child get a flu shot?
It is indeed recommended that you continue well visits for your children, whether that be in the office or a virtual visit. Many clinics have altered the way that they see patients during the pandemic to ensure a safe environment for your child. It is also highly recommended that your child receive his or her scheduled vaccines as well as the annual flu vaccine.
2. If I didn’t take my child to get vaccines on schedule, what happens? Can they catch up?
We understand that many parents delayed getting their child into their doctor’s office due to the fears surrounding the pandemic and may have fallen behind on their vaccine schedule. It is quite easy to get your child up to date on his or her vaccinations. Both the age-recommended and catch-up vaccination schedules are easily accessible on the CDC website, www.cdc.gov.
3. If my child has a fever, should I call the doctor?
Not necessarily. Most fevers in children are the result of a viral infection, and less commonly a bacterial one. Fevers can typically be managed at home with acetaminophen or ibuprofen (if over 6 months of age). If your child is 12 weeks of age or younger, lethargic, with severe headaches or abdominal pain, sore throat, rash, neck pain, ear pain, excessive vomiting, or signs of dehydration then they need to be evaluated.
If your child may have a heat related illness, is immunosuppressed, or has a chronic disorder such as sickle cell disease, call your doctor. Additional reasons to be seen by your physician are fevers that consistently rise over 104 degrees Fahrenheit, seizures, fever lasting over 24 hours in a child under the age of 2 years, or for more than three days in a child over 2-years old.
4. Are there different protocols now for when and if I should take my child to the doctor because of COVID?
Many clinics have altered the way they operate due to COVID. We have closed our waiting rooms and ask that you call upon arrival from the parking lot. We screen all patients prior to bringing them into the building. We separate our well checks and sick visits by scheduling them at different times and by using separate areas of the clinic for each. Our goal is to navigate this pandemic as safely as possible while still being able to provide excellent care for your child.
5. How do I know if my child has the flu, a cold or maybe COVID-19 or something else?
There can be a lot of overlap with the common cold, flu and COVID-19 in children. The flu most commonly involves abrupt onset of fevers (often over 102 degrees F), cough, runny nose and headaches in children, but can also feature body aches, sore throat and vomiting. Common cold symptoms may be similar, but typically the fevers are low grade and the patient is not nearly as ill.
COVID-19 is a little trickier. Many children that have COVID-19 are asymptomatic or have only mild symptoms. Those that do have symptoms can have fevers, sore throat, cough, fatigue, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, shortness of breath, body aches and loss of taste and/or smell.
6. What is RSV, and should I be worried about it?
RSV, or respiratory syncytial virus, is a very common cause of upper respiratory tract infections. For most children, it is much like having a cold. For some, however, it can cause bronchiolitis or pneumonia, which can lead to respiratory issues. Infants younger than 6 months and those with chronic health issues are at higher risk. If your child shows any signs of respiratory difficulty, such as wheezing, increased work of breathing, or signs of dehydration, they need to be evaluated immediately.
A resource that I often suggest that parents use is healthychildren.org. It offers excellent information to parents on numerous subjects, including RSV.
7. I worry about taking my baby out in the cold. What’s the best way to dress an infant in cold weather?
When taking your little one outside, be sure to use multiple thin layers of clothing, boots, mittens and a hat to keep them warm and dry. Dress them as you would yourself, but add an extra layer or two to their outfit. Remember, children should not wear bulky coats while in a car seat. Pillows, quilts, blankets and bumpers should be kept out of infant sleeping areas to avoid suffocation.
8. Can a child get sick from being out in the cold?
The cold weather in and of itself cannot cause illness. During the cold weather season children spend quite a bit more time indoors and in close proximity, increasing the risk of transmitting infections. Ensuring that your child is properly dressed to venture out into the cold is very important in preventing any cold-related issues, such as frostbite.
9. How do I know if my child might have asthma or allergies?
Seasonal allergies typically happen around the same time every year and are associated with pollens. Other allergens can be present throughout the year, such as dust and pet dander. Symptoms of allergic rhinitis include itchy eyes and nose, clear nasal discharge, sneezing, itchy ears and sometimes a scratchy throat. Unlike upper respiratory tract infections, allergic rhinitis is not associated with fevers or a really sore throat.
Asthma is one of the most common chronic diseases in childhood. The most common symptoms of asthma are cough and wheezing, but shortness of breath, poor activity tolerance, chest tightness and increased work of breathing are often present. If your child has any wheezing, a prolonged cough, especially at night, or has trouble keeping up with other kids on the playground, they need to be evaluated for asthma.
10. Should I give my child vitamins or other supplements? If so, what should I give them?
It is typically not necessary for your child to require vitamins or supplements, even if they are picky eaters. A healthy diet and staying hydrated is enough for most children, including young athletes. There are special populations of children that do require vitamins; for example, exclusively nursing infants require supplementation with vitamin D, and sometimes iron.
11. My child’s school is open, but no one has been vaccinated against COVID-19 yet. Is it ok to send my child back to school?
Yes, it is okay to send your child back. Schools have taken the appropriate steps to make your child’s school as safe as possible. Does that mean that they won’t be exposed to COVID-19? Not necessarily. Therefore, determining whether your child should go back to school or participate in virtual learning is best left to the parent. You are not going to make the wrong decision regardless of the path you choose. Follow the age-based guidelines on the wearing of masks, instruct your children on proper hand washing and discuss appropriate distancing and avoiding gatherings to reduce the spread of COVID-19.