What Do I Need to Know Before Sending My Child Back to School?

As school gets underway this month, our
Pediatric and Infectious Disease specialists
weigh in on commonly asked questions that
parents, teachers, children and teens are asking.



School-Related Frequently Asked Questions About COVID-19

As with school, this will be a new and exciting time that can be mixed with worries or hassles. Being honest with your child and wording your encouragement in age-appropriate phrases is helpful. Some children, for a time, might embrace their mask if it has a special meaning to them, such as the pattern or logo on the fabric, or the message that wearing it is helping others. Another clear message is to describe this as a rule just as there are rules to driving a car on the right and not the left side of the road. Some other ideas: - Practice wearing face coverings at home to help your child get used to it. - Start practicing one week or more prior to the start of school. - Model the behaviors you would like to see. Start by wearing a mask so that your child models this behavior. - Put a cloth mask on their favorite stuffed animal. - Decorate the mask to personalize it. Allow them to choose the mask. - Show them pictures of other kids wearing masks.
Emphasize after going to the bathroom, before eating, before touching your eyes or nose, after coughing or sneezing near your hands (but try to avoid that by coughing and sneezing into your elbow). Sanitize your hands after touching something that many others often touch, such as a door knob or handle. Use enough sanitizer to keep your hands wet so that your fingertips and thumbs are sanitized. Wait until they dry before putting your fingers near your eyes.
A mask break is a short period of time when a child is allowed to remove his or her mask as deemed necessary. Teach your child a clear way to communicate the need for a mask break (for example, a hand signal). This is a concept that each school might consider but may not be possible without adding risk to others. The break usually will occur outdoors. No one else should be near the person taking a break and the child should know to avoid touching the mask material during the break. Hands should be sanitized after touching the mask.
To reduce and hopefully eliminate another possible way to become sick, a flu vaccine is highly recommended. This will help reduce the spread of another dangerous germ that could cause a mild illness in one person but a serious infection in the next person. The flu vaccine is safe and effective and cannot cause a flu infection. Although it does not prevent flu infection 100% of the time, those who receive a flu vaccine either can avoid getting sick or will have a milder infection. In addition, no one wants to have COVID-19 and the flu at the same time! Call 863.284.5000 to schedule a flu shot with one of our Pediatric or Family Medicine providers, or visit our Gateway Walk-In or Lake Miriam Urgent Care locations to receive flu shots without an appointment.
Realize that children may hear many bits of information about COVID-19, masks and vaccines. Some of it will not be accurate. Do your best to listen to your child’s observations and questions about what they hear and be prepared to explain the facts as described by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (www.cdc.gov). It is also OK to tell your child that some questions do not have answers yet and that does not make them bad questions.
No, the virus under typical school interactions would not cling or survive long on fabrics and the hands are the primary skin surface that need to be cleaned. After school, clothes should be treated like any laundry that needs cleaning.
Achiness, fever, headache, feeling tired, cough, nasal congestion or runny nose, sore throat, diarrhea, belly pain, loss of taste or smell, and/OR poor appetite with possible nausea.
The most common test is the Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test that collects a sample by placing a swab into the nose. This is a good test if the person was exposed to COVID-19 and feels sick since a positive test likely means they have COVID-19 and were likely contagious at the time. Antigen tests can be collected in ways similar to PCR (see above) or from saliva. These tests are often rapid but also look for pieces of the germ. A negative test may have missed a real infection so if the person had a lot of the COVID-19 symptoms, they should seek further advice. A positive test in a sick person is accurate. This test might have the same problem of remaining positive even after a full recovery. Antibody testing is a blood test looking for a person’s immune system response to an infection. More research is needed into the full meaning of a positive and negative result.
A sick person is placed in "isolation" and an otherwise healthy person is placed into "quarantine" if they were exposed to a COVID-19 sick person.
You should continue to wear masks, socially distance, avoid gatherings of more than 10 people and stay home if sick or showing symptoms.
According to Polk County Public Schools, if a child is sick with any kind of illness, they really need to stay home until they feel better. If it is COVID-19-like, they will be told to stay home for 10 days UNLESS: 1. They get a negative test result, they haven’t had a fever for 24 hours, and their symptoms are improved. 2. A medical provider provides a note to return before 10 days due to alternate diagnosis. Then they can return when fever-free for 24 hours and symptoms are improved.
Some masks will have a label with washing instructions to follow. In general, it is good to know that the COVID-19 germ is delicate and becomes non-infectious over time or with mild detergent. But since the mask can pick up other germs it is best to wash it with your regular laundry in the hot setting. Masks can be hand washed in hot water by scrubbing with soap for 20 seconds. Tumble dry on high setting. Avoid scented detergents and fabric softeners. Some masks are disposable and must be discarded as washing will cause damage. Do not microwave masks. Visibly torn or worn masks should be repaired or discarded. Store masks in a clean and dry location when not in use.
As many of our medical professionals who wear masks for their entire work shift know, wearing masks for a prolonged period of time can occasionally cause a headache or a scratchy throat. Taking an occasional "mask break" outside and away from others to have a drink and get a break may help alleviate this.
Our Drive-Thru Testing Centers and our Respiratory Care Center perform testing on those ages 2 years and older, however, we offer a child-friendly testing option at our Children's Emergency Department, located in the Carol Jenkins Barnett Pavilion for Women and Children. An appointment is not needed, but a doctor's note is required. Hours of the Children's Testing Center are 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. seven days a week.