Children’s health experts share back-to-school safety tips

Coronavirus

JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) – According to Children’s of Mississippi experts, social distancing and keeping their hands clean can help the state’s children stay safe from COVID-19, whether they are in school or at home this semester.

 “We know that parents have so much uncertainty during this pandemic, but by encouraging their children to do the right things – wearing masks for most ages, keeping hands clean and physical distancing – they can help their families stay healthy,” said Dr. Mary Taylor, Suzan B. Thames Chair and professor and chair of pediatrics at the University of Mississippi Medical Center.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has called for a safe return to in-person classes, noting that children learn best when they are in school. However, Dr. Sally Goza, AAP president, has said steps must be taken to keep students and staff safe.

“After weighing what we know about kids and coronavirus, the AAP strongly advocates that the goal should be to have students physically present in school,” Goza said. “This should happen with careful measures to keep students and staff safe, and with the flexibility to adapt as needed to the community’s prevalence of COVID-19.”

Taylor said parents can help their children by modeling safe habits, such as wearing masks when in public and washing their hands frequently.

Children’s of Mississippi and the AAP offer these safety tips to parents this fall:

  • Physical distancing
    • Keeping at least six feet apart is best, but the AAP advises spacing desks at least three feet apart may have similar benefits if children are wearing facemasks.
  • Wear a mask
    • Facemasks protect children and adults from contracting COVID-19 by reducing the chance of transmitting the virus through the spray of spit and respiratory droplets. Cloth masks should cover mouths and noses and should be washed after each use. However, the risks outweigh the benefits of mask-wearing for young children. AAP guidelines indicate children younger than 2 should not wear cloth face coverings because of choking and strangulation risk.
  • Hand hygiene
    • Frequent handwashing with soap and water is important for everyone. Encourage children to wash their hands thoroughly for 20 seconds before eating, after visiting the restroom and after coughing or sneezing. Make sure older children have hand sanitizer with them in case soap and water are not available. The AAP website Healthychildren.org offers more tips on keeping hands clean.
  • Don’t share
    • That may sound like an odd request for parents to make of their children, but students can limit the spread of COVID-19 by not sharing things such as pencils, crayons and water bottles.
  • Stay home if feeling sick
    • Children and adults with fever of 100.4 degrees or higher or signs of illness such as sore throat, cough, diarrhea and vomiting should stay home. Students should be free of symptoms, including fever, for at least 24 hours before returning to class.
    • For information on free COVID-19 screening and testing in your area, visit umc.edu.
  • Keep vaccinations current
    • Experts recommend flu shots for adults and children this fall. See your pediatrician to make sure your children have the immunizations they need.
  • Students at higher risk
    • Some children might be at higher risk for complications of COVID-19 due to certain medical conditions. Parents should consult their pediatrician to determine if returning to school in person is best.

Additional COVID-19 information and tips are available at umc.edu.

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