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How to move forward during the coronavirus pandemic
Use proper hygiene and share information
Published Friday, March 13, 2020 6:00 pm
by Ashley Mahoney | The Charlotte Post

Proper handwashing is one of the best practices for prevention of virus transmission.

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No one knows when the coronavirus pandemic will end, but here’s how to proceed.

Atrium Health medical experts held a panel discussion today to separate myth from fact, answering questions from the community about how to take preventative measures for pregnant women, newborns, children, as well as children with chronic symptoms. Each expert reiterated the best practices remain, properly wash your hands and practice social distancing.

“There’s a really good treatment for coronavirus, and it’s time,” Atrium Health’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Drew Herman said.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests proper handwashing requires five steps: wet, lather, scrub, rinse and dry. CDC specifications for lather include rubbing the back of your hands, between your fingers and under your nails with soap. Scrub your hands for 20 seconds.

That covers hand hygiene, but what exactly is social distancing, and how do you explain it to kids?

“If people have cold symptoms or fever, it’s probably good not to have them over at the house when kids are around,” Atrium pediatrician Dr. Arthur Spell said. “We’re referring to this as social distancing. It’s kind of the same concept.”

Explaining coronavirus to a child should be done in an age-appropriate way. Dr. Gillian Regan, a pediatric psychologist at Atrium Health Levine Children’s, expressed the importance of not only helping children understand what the virus is, but helping them sift through fact versus fiction.

“There is a lot of information out there, and it is important to make sure that you are presenting factual information [by] listening to the doctors, following reputable sources,” Regan said. “There are places like the CDC that have really great handouts on how to talk to children. I would encourage you to make sure that you are filtering information, make sure that it is accurate information. For younger kids, they may really benefit from limited information that they can understand that’s really bite-sized. For teenagers, it may be helpful to have more in depth conversations with them. It may also be helpful to ask what they’re hearing and what they know, because there may be a version going around that is not true. That’s where a lot of fear and anxiety is coming from. You would better be able to tackle some of those concerns if you know what they are hearing.”

How a child sees those around them act can often dictate how they respond. If a parent is panicking about the virus, then the child is more likely experience anxiety as well.

“Kids really feed off of their parents,” Regan said. “If you are able to be calm and reassuring and talk them through this, they are going to feed off of that. You can model for them ways to respond to this appropriately and effectively.”

Taking a break from social media as a family may also help keep anxiety down. Not everything on the internet is true, and parents should be particularly mindful of that.

“There is a lot out there that is untrue and inciting a lot of fear,” Regan said. “The more that we can limit and filter that, in particular teenagers, the better for everyone.”

Parents need to help children cope with the disappointment of canceled events. These range from trips to sporting events to birthday parties. Children need to feel heard as they express their disappointment and frustration, rather than brushed off, or told to get over it.

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“Validate them,” Regan said. “Let them know that you’re listening to them. Trying to tell them, ‘oh, don’t worry about this, don’t be upset,’ could further perpetuate these things.”

However, parents should not overcompensate by making promises they cannot keep.

“There is so much out there that is unknown,” Regan said. “We know what we can do right here, right now. We can follow these different hygiene recommendations from Dr. Spell.”

Despite uncertainty about the virus’ future impact, humans still have a part to play in the narrative.

“We really want to focus on what we can control, so we often use the phrase, ‘control the controllable,’” Regan said. “There are things that we can do. Maybe your baseball practice is canceled, but can you go outside and play catch with mom or dad or a brother or sister?”

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools remain open while the North Carolina High School Athletic Association has suspended athletics from 11:59 p.m. today through April 6, in addition to postponing the men’s and women’s basketball state championships. Middle school and kindergarten through eighth grade athletics have been canceled indefinitely. Dr. Ashley Chadha, specialty medical director pediatric pulmonology at Atrium Health Levine Children’s encourages parents to take into account how a school district chooses to proceed. However, he noted that circumstances are changing on a daily, if not hourly basis.

“At this time we recommend continuing as usual, going to school, practicing good hand hygiene, and practicing good social distancing with those that are sick,” Chadha said. “I know that’s a difficult situation.”

Chadha also explained that approaching coronavirus with children who have chronic illness like asthma or cystic fibrosis does not change. Good hand hygiene and social distancing are still the best ways to take preventative measures.

“For children with chronic illness, it is important to make sure that you have your chronic medications available, as well as your regular medications,” said Chadha, who recommends a 30-day-plus supply of medications.

Chadha noted that data is limited for children with chronic respiratory conditions, as less than 2% of total cases have been pediatric.

“The severity of those cases have been relatively mild,” Chadha said. “What we do know is children with underlying illness do have a risk for more severe coronavirus infection. The risk of acquiring coronavirus is essentially the same to other individuals.”

There have been comparisons between coronavirus and flu. They are not synonymous. However, it is still flu season. For parents concerned about a child’s health in general, Spell recommends calling the office to determine how to proceed.

“Flu definitely is still very active in the area,” Spell said. “If your child has fever and cough that could be consistent with the flu, there is a very quick, sudden onset of those symptoms associated also with sore throat, headache, generalized muscle achiness, please call our office and talk with our triage nurses. We’ll decide if homecare is appropriate, or if your child should be seen in the office. We will ask you to don a mask when you come to the office, and we will evaluate your child and determine if testing for the flu is appropriate. If the symptoms are within the first 48 hours of illness, medications like Tamiflu may be helpful in preventing some of the complications of flu.”

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More on the coronavirus pandemic:

First coronavirus cases recorded in Mecklenburg County

Now that coronavirus is in NC, don’t panic, health officials say

North Carolina watchfully prepares for spread of coronavirus



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