Helping Children Prepare for a Safe Return to School Amid COVID-19 and Restrictions

July 28, 2020
Helping Children Prepare for a Safe Return to School Amid COVID-19 and Restrictions

Many different schools and school districts means there will be many different plans on what back to school will look like this year. No matter what it looks like in your area, there are some things that will be beneficial to all parents and students.

Katherine Broering MD, a pediatrician with TriHealth, says one of the most important things is seeing your pediatrician for well visits for your kids.

“Annual well visits are import- ant for children so we can monitor growth and development,” says Dr. Broering. “Developmental screenings are essential to ensure kids are meeting proper speech and motor milestones.”

Dr. Broering also added some of the unseen effects of COVID-19 on children as another reason for the importance of keeping well visits.

“We are seeing patients of all ages showing signs of anxiety due to the pandemic and we want to help,” says Dr. Broering. “In our younger patients, they may act out while older children can voice what they are feeling.”

Sports Physicals for Fall Athletes

To adhere to social distancing, many schools are not doing large gatherings of people nor hosting sports physicals this year for fall athletes. Dr. Broering and her colleagues are performing them for their patients.

“We offer more than a sports physical for someone playing a sport,” says Dr. Broering. “We do a comprehensive checkup including physical and mental health assessments.”

What About Masks Going Back to School?

It is anticipated that many districts will require some type of mask policy for staff and students when school resumes. Dr. Broering knows it isn’t easy for anyone to wear a mask for long periods of time, especially younger kids.

“We want to focus on being positive for children and make the transition as smooth as possible,” says. Dr. Broering. “Recognizing that face coverings in young kids may increase hand to mouth contact, physical distancing should be prioritized to mitigate spread of illness. In older children, particularly middle and high school age, face coverings should be worn when not able to be 6 feet apart.”

Dr. Broering says some of the things to practice in addition to wearing a mask and physical distancing are teaching kids to not touch their face, not sharing items with classmates, covering their sneeze or cough with their elbow, and washing hands frequently.

The Importance of Hand Hygiene

Another thing that will be critical to curbing the spread of germs will be proper hand hygiene.

“We have all heard it, but it is important to wash hands for at least 20 seconds,” says Dr. Broering. “Soap and water is best. Alcohol based hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol can also be effective.”

Dr. Broering cautioned against using home- made hand sanitizers because all are different and some contain so much alcohol that it can burn hands.

If returning to school, frequency of hand washing is also important.

“It is best practice to wash hands before leaving home and when getting to school,” says Dr. Broering. “It is also important to wash while at school when doing different activities, before and after eating lunch, before leaving school and when arriving home.”

No matter what this school year brings, it is critical to have a plan in place before leaving the house and what to do when you return home.

“Right now is a good time to be cautious,” said Dr. Broering. “When kids see adults doing things like wearing a mask and practicing proper hand hygiene, it becomes routine for the children too.”

Dr. Broering says simple steps can cut how quickly and aggressively COVID-19 can spread.