Keeping Your Family Safe During COVID

The following message is from one of our wonderful parents who is a Pediatrician here in our community:


The last few months have definitely been unusual and like you, I long for life to return to a pre-COVID state.  Returning to school will hopefully help our children, and us, feel like life is normal.  Do not let your guard down though!  The number of positive cases in Florida and our community have decreased but we are still seeing cases of COVID-19 each day.  We want to protect our children but we want to protect ourselves and others too.  Children with this infection are contagious. 


What can we do to protect our families now that school is resuming?  My practice, Physicians’ Primary Care of Southwest Florida, and other local practices are in full support of masks.  The scientific evidence clearly shows masking significantly reduces the transmission of the novel coronavirus.  Combining this with hand washing, not touching your face, and maintaining social distancing will help both adults and children. As a father of two, I know these things are difficult for children.  However, their benefit in helping control this virus is incredibly important.  Children look up to their parents so let them see you practicing the above.  Make masks fun!  Tell them how proud of them you are for wearing the mask and for washing their hands!  Be a good example for your family!


In spite of this, preventing the spread of COVID-19 begins at home.  Keep your child home until you have consulted their pediatrician if they are showing symptoms of infection (fever, cough, runny nose, sore throat, body aches, loss of smell/taste, stomach pain, vomiting, diarrhea).  Contact their pediatrician if they have been exposed to someone you know is infected with the coronavirus.  Call if you think they have been exposed.  The CDC has guidelines for all of these situations and we will be happy to help.  We know we are going to receive a lot of calls and are preparing for this. 


There is no cure for the novel coronavirus at the time of writing this.  Several medicines and therapies have had success but they should not be confused with a cure.   The “cure” is to not become infected.  I have seen a lot less cases of our typical spring and summer infections (strep throat, hand foot and mouth, roseola, etc.) since people have been practicing the above techniques.  They work for COVID-19 as well.  Use them to your advantage!  Scientists have also been working on a vaccine for many years (because COVID-19 is so closely related to the virus causing the SARS outbreak in 2003) but it is still some time away at best.


A child’s health is more than fever and cough.  I have seen several cases of depression in children throughout the pandemic.  Talk to them about these events.  Explain why hand washing and masks are important.  It is OK if you cannot answer all of their questions!  Watch for signs of depression in your children (sad, irritable, fatigue, changes in appetite/sleep, suddenly unable to concentrate, indecisiveness, feelings of guilt/hopelessness, loss of interest in activities, sudden behavior changes).  Get help if you think your child is depressed!


As a pediatrician and a parent of virtual school students, the best advice I can give newbies is establish a schedule!  Your children will have much better chances of success and avoidance of depression if they have consistency from day to day.  Keep a regular bedtime.  Wake them the same time every morning.  My wife and I include chores, exercise, and piano practice into our children’s school routines.  When they finish for the day, let them be kids!  Let them use their imagination and play with their toys and get outside and enjoy themselves.  I always try to reduce screen time but let them call or FaceTime friends and family they have not seen in the last few months. 


A lot of people are tired of hearing “we are in this together” but we really are.  I miss giving my patients high five and hugs in the office.  I miss watching my kids play with groups of other kids.  Over ten thousand people in Florida alone have died from COVID-19.  That is a huge number for an infection the entire world is trying to stop.  Now is not the time to give up.  We will prevail as long as we stay the course.


David Butler, DO, FAAP

Father of 2 LVS students and pediatrician at Physician’s’ Primary Care of Southwest Florida


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