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KIDS + COVID-19: Optimizing Children’s Health During the Coronavirus Outbreak
By Emily Savage
Posted on April 6, 2020
As we get used to our “new normal” every day, parents are wanting more and more to make sure children are safe and following the best protocols to stay healthy. In addition to STAYING HOME, BCB Experts from Chicago Concierge Pediatrics, are giving us tips to help keep children healthy during the pandemic.
The newest research from the American Academy of Pediatrics published last week analyzed pediatric patients with COVID-19 in China. Their research showed that, although less severe, children ARE susceptible to contracting coronavirus. The study went on to show that the most vulnerable group is children under the age of 5, with infants (less than 1 year old) being at the greatest risk for morbidity and mortality. We don’t yet know if coronavirus will translate in the same way in the US, but a teenager from Los Angeles and an infant from Chicago have died from the virus. Until we do, everyone must take precautions to optimize their and their children’s health when there are still so many unknowns.
Below are the top 10 ways to keep your children as safe as possible during the COVID-19 outbreak:
Social distancing has been shown to be the most effective way to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Staying at least 6 feet away from other individuals meets the minimum requirement for social distancing, which is very difficult to do with kids. As difficult as it may be, staying home is the best option for kids. When you need to go to the store or the pharmacy, do your best to leave your children at home. Just think of the alone time!
Hand washing is extremely important. Washing with soap and water is proven to be more effective than hand sanitizer. Hand sanitizer is sufficient if you are not able to use soap and water. For kids, they must wash aggressively for 20 seconds over every surface of their hands, rinse with water, then vigorously dry with a towel or paper towel. This can be beyond difficult and kids aren’t great at doing it well. Try singing a song or turning it into a counting game to 20 with a reward.
Breast feeding is a great way to provide immune support to babies given their immune systems do not begin to mature until two to three months. Do not fret if you are unable to breast feed. Formula provides the necessary calories and nutrients for your baby to grow and thrive until his/her immune system is able to develop.
Healthy eating supports a healthy immune system, metabolism, and increases good neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine which help with mood, energy, and the ability to fight infection. Certain foods are better than others, but in general, a variety of fruits, vegetables, and proteins are the best place to start, and avoidance of foods high in sugar should be the goal.
Vitamin D is the only supplement necessary as long as your children are getting a well-balanced diet. Include a multivitamin if you have a picky eater like I do. Vitamin C and zinc are plentiful in food and are most effective when ingested and broken down from food. My families often ask about the nutritional benefits of elderberry. The answer is we just don’t know at this point if it is safe. In allopathic medicine, all safety profiles are created from large medical studies that support or refute safety. Unfortunately, there are no studies that have determined elderberry is safe for children. I recommend avoiding it and any others that do not have published, validated research to confirm their safety.
Exercise is a very important part of staying healthy and boosting the immune system. Something as simple as jumping in place, throwing or kicking a ball, riding a bike, or even going for a walk will boost the immune system and almost as important, it burns some of the unbelievably endless energy children have!
Teach your kids to cough and sneeze into their elbows. I tell all of my kids and patients to Dab on Germs! Get it? OK, so I am not a cool Mom. Make sure to reinforce or reward good behaviors, even with a clap or a hug.
Sleep is a key influencer of immune function, mood, and overall health. Staying in a consistent sleep routine, as difficult as it may be, is hugely important in times like these.
Like sleep, sticking to a routine is extremely important and they help children feel safe and secure. Create a schedule that works for your family. Incorporate free indoor and outdoor play, activities, learning, and sleep. Like everything else in this world, look online for a ton of example schedules that you can use as a starting point and modify to fit your own family.
Cortisol is the hormone humans release when we are stressed. Cortisol reduces immune function and increases the fight or flight response which creates anxiety and restlessness in kids. To keep cortisol low, focus on good sleep, healthy eating, and exercise. Be mindful of not exposing children, especially younger children, to the panic, death, and “debating” of the news. Have adult conversations in private. Children are very intuitive and have the ability to decode fear, anxiety, and distress from the voices they hear, and images they see, even if they do not understand the vocabulary.
You can find more information from Chicago Concierge Pediatrics here.
Stay tuned for for more the Bump Club and Beyond Team. We’ll be providing you many ideas for things to do over the next few weeks when we’re home with our kids right here. Check it out for ways to keep busy, Amazon Prime haul for keeping kids entertained, 101 Movies for Parents, online activities, virtual fitness and MORE! We’ll be updating our ideas for you and your family daily.
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