“It’s certainly been two very long years, and we’re all going through COVID fatigue,” commented Dr. Jenks, chief of the emergency department at Fauquier Hospital. Dr. Jenks knows better than anyone the unprecedented challenges the COVID-19 pandemic has posed to hospitals, communities and residents. Especially now that we are entering the third year of the pandemic, it is more important than ever that we continue to do all we can to stop the spread of this novel coronavirus. The latest variant of Omicron appeared in our community from late December to January, as we have not seen with previous variants. Currently, levels of community transmission appear to continue to decline, translating into fewer COVID-positive patients we are seeing within hospital walls.
As our community continues to focus on recovering Omicron, we all hope to return to a more normal state. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 threat doesn’t seem to be making an official release anytime soon. So what can we do? How can we continue to live with this virus? A key answer is that we must remain diligent and informed of the facts. Working together as a community by adopting safe habits when possible will help reduce the spread. The likelihood that another, more dangerous variant may emerge seems possible.
Dr Jenks said: “Vaccination remains the single most important step we can all take to reduce the spread of this disease and to protect ourselves and our communities from the risk of poor outcomes from infection. Remember that vaccination is not just about protection. For example, this is to protect those who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons. As more and more people can get vaccinated, including children, we are getting closer to returning to normal life.
Vaccines are now available and recommended for children ages five and older, boosters are available for ages 12 and older after five months after the primary series.
Keeping our children safe
It’s a very unique environment. A world in which some of the youngest children don’t have a clear memory of what it was like before COVID. Mental health is a big concern when it comes to developing the minds of children of any age. Some important tips for working with your children include calming them down about any issues that are worrying them. By opening the channels of communication, reinforcing healthy lifestyles and eating habits, and encouraging time outdoors, keep your mind and body strong. When talking to your children about COVID, it can be helpful to incorporate available explanatory cartoons.
We asked some of the experts — local pediatrician Dr. Diana Chalmeta and family physician Dr. Aliona Bortun — to shed some light on many of the questions parents frequently ask.
Where can my child take a COVID-19 test?
According to Dr. Diana Chalmeta, local pediatrician at Piedmont Pediatrics, “Local pharmacies. Piedmont Pediatrics provides rapid and PCR testing to our patients by appointment and the usual turnaround time for testing is two days. You can also check with your primary care provider or pediatrician to see if they perform tests.
Dr. Aliona Bortun, Family Medicine in Bealeton, explained: “There are different COVID testing options at your pediatrician’s office, in emergency care and at COVID testing sites. Now, testing is also more readily available with COVID home test kits. The best time to take a COVID test, and to avoid false negative tests, is after two days of symptoms.
If my child starts showing symptoms of COVID-19, what should I do?
Dr. Chalmeta explained that COVID symptoms in children are usually milder and often seem to match a mild cold. “It is rarer for children to have a fever,” she commented. “If your child has a runny nose or unexplained cough, even mild, it could be COVID-19. If around other children, your child should be tested or isolated until they feel better.
Dr. Bortun advises parents not to panic! A diagnosis of COVID can be worrisome and if a child gets it, but the majority of cases in children tend to be milder. The best thing the family can do is isolate themselves at home, if possible. Dr. Bortun suggested: “Assign a personal bathroom for their exclusive use. Social distancing, if possible, but do not leave child without adult supervision. Notify the child’s school immediately and contact their doctor. Scheduling a video meeting will allow you to discuss a plan, further instructions and tests. It is especially important to inform the doctor as soon as possible if the child has comorbidities and chronic respiratory disease. Ultimately, Dr. Bortun suggests making sure the basics are covered: “The child needs to stay well hydrated, even if they don’t eat a lot. For toddlers and babies, a good rule of thumb is to count wet diapers. Be alert by monitoring the child’s breathing rate, lip color, muscle intercaustial retractions, and identifying any symptoms of croup or croup-like symptoms.
If my child gets COVID-19, what home remedies can I use to help treat their symptoms?
Dr. Chalmeta advises parents to consult their pediatrician before introducing new treatments into their child’s routine. She advises parents on the importance of maintaining hydration. “Immune-boosting vitamins may be beneficial in fighting viruses, such as COVID-19. These include vitamin D, vitamin C and zinc. Fever medications may also be used as needed. As for babies, she says, “they can benefit from a constant saline nasal rinse and suction for coughs and congestion. Older children can benefit from over-the-counter honey and age appropriate cough and cold remedies.
Dr. Bortun has also added to this list. She said: “Tylenol can be used for pain and fever. A teaspoon of honey for children one year and older can help with coughs. Adding a humidifier to the child’s room can be beneficial and take warm baths and showers. Vicks rub is recommended for children over two years old; baby Vicks rub can be used for young children.
How can I protect my child/infant if someone in my household has COVID-19?
According to Dr. Chalmeta, “If possible, keep the child/baby away from the COVID-infected person. Ideally the infected person should stay in a separate room but if this is not possible they should wear a mask at all times, an N95 if possible.
Dr. Bortun agrees: “Using different rooms and bathrooms helps to practice good hand hygiene. If you have a baby and are breastfeeding, continue to express or breastfeed with precautions, such as hand hygiene and wearing a mask.