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Tips for a Healthy Back to School in these Uncertain Times

This year, regardless of whether children will be attending school remotely or in-person, the school day will be very different for them, their parents and their teachers.

Pediatric health experts with Brenner Children’s Hospital, part of Wake Forest Baptist Health offer the following tips:

North Carolina law requires children to receive certain vaccines. Vaccinations are required for children entering kindergarten, seventh grade and high school seniors.

NEW this year: All students entering the 12th grade are required to receive an additional Meningococcal vaccine.

“Many children and teens have not been visiting their pediatricians as often as they should due to the pandemic, but it’s important to know that health care providers have taken extra steps to make sure all of our patients are protected from COVID-19 when they come in to visit,” said Kimberly Montez, M.D. M.P.H., a pediatrician with Brenner Children’s Hospital. “All of us have had our routines disrupted but it is important to remember that children are still required to receive certain vaccines.”

In addition, it will be critical for children to receive the flu shot, once it is available, to reduce the spread of influenza this fall and winter.

Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C) is a very rare and relatively new disease that is not yet completely understood, but at this time, health experts believe it is a complication of and a delayed inflammatory response to a COVID-19 infection.

Right now, the average age of patients appears to be around 8 years of age and the disease seems to be more common in Black or Hispanic children, with a survival rate of around 98%.

“This is a new disease but we are constantly learning more about how various organs can be affected, including the heart,” said Kacy Ramirez, M.D., a pediatric infectious disease physician with Brenner Children’s Hospital. “Initial symptoms often include a high fever, vomiting, diarrhea, rash, redness of the eyes and mouth or confusion, so if a child experiences these symptoms, we urge parents to contact their pediatrician right away. For more serious issues such as difficulty breathing or seizures, children should be brought immediately to the nearest emergency department.”

Physicians recommend the best way to avoid contracting MIS-C is to reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19. Steps parents and children can take include limiting nonessential activities, gatherings and events, social distancing, washing hands and avoiding touching the face.
While it’s understandable that many children will be anxious about this school year, parents can help alleviate some of the concern by preparing their kids for what’s to come and allowing them to talk about their feelings.
“We encourage parents to be open and honest with their children and to be watching for changes in behavior or mood that could signal that a child is having difficulty adjusting,” said Linda Nicolotti, Ph.D., a pediatric psychologist with Brenner Children’s Hospital. “Many children are anxious right now and they will miss all the social aspects of school, so we’re encouraging them to spend extra time with their family and to take advantage of staying connected with their friends virtually.”
Parents should remind children and teens that there are important steps they can take to help control the situation, such as washing their hands, social distancing and maintaining a healthy diet.