What to Know About Face Masks and COVID-19

Wearing a face mask is safe and may help slow the spread of COVID-19.

Why do some people still think they shouldn’t wear a mask to help control the COVID-19 pandemic?

A chain link fence won't keep out a mosquito, but it will keep out a dog covered in ticks...
A chain link fence won’t keep out a mosquito, but it will keep out a dog covered in ticks…

The usual suspects…

Confusion About Face Masks and COVID-19

Much of the confusion about face masks stems from the fact the initial guidance from the WHO and CDC said that wearing a mask wasn’t necessary for everyone.

“Wearing medical masks when not indicated may cause unnecessary cost, procurement burden and create a false sense of security that can lead to neglecting other essential measures such as hand hygiene practices. Furthermore, using a mask incorrectly may hamper its effectiveness to reduce the risk of transmission.”

Advice on the use of masks in the community, during home care and in health care settings in the context of the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) outbreak – WHO Interim guidance January 2020

Using a mask incorrectly?

If you are going to wear your mask under your chin or with your nose or mouth exposed and think you are protected and not social distance, then wearing a mask might actually get more people sick. With little information that masks were helpful, this fear that they would create a false sense of security likely influenced initial guidance.

Experts were likely also concerned about a limited supply of medical masks at the time.

Of course, as we have gotten more information about the SARS-CoV-2 virus and how it spreads, that guidance about face masks changed.

“CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies), especially in areas of significant community-based transmission.”

Use of Cloth Face Coverings to Help Slow the Spread of COVID-19 (April 2020)

We know that the best way to avoid getting COVID-19, at least until we get a vaccine, is going to be trying make sure you are never exposed to the SARS-CoV-2 virus. In addition to social distancing and washing your hands, wearing a face mask correctly will help to decrease your risk of exposing others. And if those around you are wearing a face mask, then they won’t expose you!

What to Know About Face Masks and COVID-19

But what about the idea that the pore size of the masks are too big to stop the small size of the SARS-CoV-2 virus?

This 2009 photograph captured a sneeze in progress, revealing the plume of salivary droplets as they are expelled in a large cone-shaped array from this man’s open mouth, thereby, dramatically illustrating the reason one needs to cover his/her mouth when coughing, or sneezing, in order to protect others from germ exposure. Photo courtesy CDC/James Gathany
A sneeze in progress, revealing the plume of salivary droplets as they are expelled in a large cone-shaped array from this man’s open mouth. Photo by James Gathany.

The thing is, the SARS-CoV-2 virus, while it is very small, isn’t just floating around in the air by itself! It gets carried in and on larger respiratory droplets.

And if the mask blocks those respiratory droplets, then it should keep you from exposing others to the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

What about the claim that face masks cause folks to breath their own carbon dioxide, even leading to breathing problems?

OSHA has issued guidance to protect workers from getting COVID-19, which includes that they wear face coverings.
OSHA has issued guidance to protect workers from getting COVID-19, which includes that they wear face coverings.

Most folks realize this isn’t a real problem, after all, health professionals wear face masks all of the time without any problems, right?

But just think about these arguments…

On the one hand, they are worried that the pore size of face masks won’t block out the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which is about 0.1 μm in diameter.

But then they think these very same face masks will block carbon dioxide? How big are carbon dioxide molecules???

They are about 1000 times smaller than the SARS-CoV-2 virus…

So a face mask is not going to affect your ability to breath well.

Who Should Not Wear a Face Mask

Not surprisingly, a face mask is even recommended for folks with asthma, as long as their asthma is well controlled.

“There is no evidence that wearing a face mask makes asthma worse.”

AAAI Recommendations on the use of face masks to reduce COVID-19 transmission

Infants and toddlers under age two years can skip wearing a face mask because of the risk of suffocation, as can “anyone who has trouble breathing, is unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance.”

If you have “trouble breathing” though, you likely have a severe respiratory condition and you aren’t simply someone who doesn’t want to wear a mask.

Flyers about the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the use of face masks due to the COVID-19 are fake.

And there are no face mask exemptions under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

People are selling fake face mask exemption cards.
People are selling fake face mask exemption cards.

Are you ready to put on a mask now?

Since we are seeing higher rates of COVID-19 in states that don’t have mask mandates, the only confusion should be over why anyone still won’t wear a mask when they are around other people.

More on Controlling COVID-19

Are One in a Billion Children Dying of COVID-19?

Paul Thomas doesn’t think parents should be concerned because he thinks only one in a billion children are dying of COVID-19.

Why do some people think that only one in a billion children are dying of COVID-19?

There were 7 deaths among the 7,780 children with COVID-19 in the study and Paul Thomas somehow translated that into a rate of one in a billion.
There were 7 deaths among the 7,780 children with COVID-19 in the study and Paul Thomas somehow translated that into a rate of one in a billion.

The usual suspects…

Are One in a Billion Children Dying of COVID-19?

In his video about face masks and face shields, Paul Thomas describes a study about pediatric patients with COVID-19.

“We identified 131 studies across 26 countries comprising 7780 pediatric patients.”

Hoang et al on COVID-19 in 7780 pediatric patients: A systematic review

What did they find?

They found that most of the kids in the study with COVID-19 recovered and had “overall excellent prognosis.”

“Seven deaths were reported (0·09%) and 11 children (0·14%) met inclusion for multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children.”

Hoang et al on COVID-19 in 7780 pediatric patients: A systematic review

Most, but not all…

“They looked at 131 studies that included over 7000 children from 26 different countries. There were only seven deaths out of the 6.4 million cases of COVID-19. Understand, that’s about one in a billion if you look at the world population. One in a billion children dying of COVID. Oh my gosh! No! You don’t need to be afraid for your child.”

Paul Thomas on FACE MASKS & FACE SHIELDS: Should We Wear Them?

One in a billion?

Even if you don’t know anything about statistics or epidemiology and haven’t looked at the study, you can guess that it wasn’t saying that only one in a billion children are dying of COVID-19!

Instead, most people will quickly see that there were seven deaths among 7,780 pediatric patients.

So among the children who got COVID-19, a relatively high percentage, at nearly 0.1%, died.

If only one in a billion children were truly dying of COVID-19, then only one child would have died! While the world population has indeed reached nearly eight billion people, keep in mind that they aren’t all children!

This North American Pediatric ICU database has recorded at least 39 pediatric COVID-19 deaths.

Anyway, so far, there have been over 70 pediatric COVID-19 deaths in the United States alone. So much for one in a billion children dying of COVID…

Should you be afraid for your child?

Are you getting advice about COVID-19 from Paul Thomas???

More on Kids Dying with COVID-19

Why Do Some People Still Think Hydroxychloroquine Works for COVID-19?

We are more than six months into the COVID-19 pandemic and we are still talking about hydroxychloroquine, a dangerous treatment that doesn’t work.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to rage throughout the world, we don’t have a vaccine, there are few treatments and no cure, and as some still refuse to wear masks in public or social distance, there are still those think that hydroxychloroquine works.

We are still talking about hydroxychloroquine.

Can you guess why?

Why Do Some People Still Think Hydroxychloroquine Works for COVID-19?

Sure, it’s not complicated…

The US has a stockpile of hydroxychloroquine.

There are plenty of people pushing for the continued use of hydroxycloroquine as a treatment for COVID-19, even though many experts were skeptical from the beginning and there are new warnings from the FDA.

“Based on its ongoing analysis of the EUA and emerging scientific data, the FDA determined that chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine are unlikely to be effective in treating COVID-19 for the authorized uses in the EUA. Additionally, in light of ongoing serious cardiac adverse events and other potential serious side effects, the known and potential benefits of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine no longer outweigh the known and potential risks for the authorized use.”

FDA cautions against use of hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine for COVID-19 outside of the hospital setting or a clinical trial due to risk of heart rhythm problems

But how do these folks convince anyone to listen to them?

Zev Zelenko is one of the doctors pushing hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for COVID-19.

Mostly it is because people want to believe that there is a treatment, especially when the alternative is doing nothing.

Dr Urso is another doctor pushing hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for COVID-19.

They want to believe, even though that false hope for an effective treatment puts them at risk of dangerous side effects.

An extra risk without any benefits, as hydroxycholorquine doesn’t actually work as a COVID-19 treatment.

“We know that every single good study – and by good study I mean randomised control study in which the data are firm and believable – has shown that hydroxychloroquine is not effective in the treatment of Covid-19.”

Anthony Fauci on Coronavirus: Hydroxychloroquine ineffective says Fauci

Again, then, why do so many people think that hydroxychloroquine and these other protocols actually work?

In addition to some poorly done studies that say it works, it is mostly because of the anecdotal data and testimonials they are hearing from the doctors who have appointed themselves experts on treating COVID-19.

How are they determining that false negatives are really false negatives?
How are they determining that false negatives are really false negatives?

For example, is the fact that there are no deaths and only one hospitalization on this list of COVID STATS from the McKinney Family Medicine a good reason to take hydroxychloroquine?

“The overall cumulative hospitalization rate is 120.9 per 100,000 population.”

COVIDView Weekly Summary

Of course not, especially when you consider that you likely wouldn’t expect any hospitalizations or deaths when you only have 271 COVID-19 patients.

Wait, why is that?

With a hospitalization rate of 120 per 100,000 cases, you can expect one person to be hospitalized for every 1,000 cases!

Of course, that rate is higher in groups with higher risk factors, but even if all of the patients at McKinney Family Medicine were older and had some risk factors, it is doubtful that you would expect more than one hospitalization.

“Mild to moderate (mild symptoms up to mild pneumonia): 81%”

Interim Clinical Guidance for Management of Patients with Confirmed Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19)

Remember, most people with COVID-19 have mild symptoms and recover without any specific treatments.

Unfortunately, some don’t, especially those in high risk groups.

Craig Spencer warns that anecdotes about hydroxychloroquine are harming people.

And that’s why we need to work to control COVID-19 with face masks, social distancing, handwashing, testing, contact tracing, and quarantining, and stop all of the pseudo-scientific nonsense about hydroxychloroquine and other COVID-19 misinformation.

More on Hydroxychloroquine

COVID-19 Registry List

To get answers as quickly as possible, researchers and health care providers have created COVID-19 registries that cover everything from asthma and diabetes to pregnancy and pulmonary embolism.

Since COVID-19 is truly a novel disease, we continue to look for answers about how to best treat our patients who are getting sick.

Fever and cough are the most common symptoms in this COVID-19 pediatric registry.
Fever and cough are the most common symptoms in this COVID-19 pediatric registry.

And to get those answers as quickly as possible, researchers and health care providers have created COVID-19 registries that cover everything from asthma and diabetes to pregnancy and pulmonary embolism.

COVID-19 Registry List

Not surprisingly, there is a COVID-19 registry to cover just about every aspect of this new disease.

The results from these registries will hopefully help us come up with better COVID-19 treatment protocols and answer some very important questions, such as whether or not SARS-CoV-2 truly is triggering new cases of type 1 diabetes and why some people have lingering symptoms.

More on COVID-19

The Experts Defending Anthony Fauci

Anthony Fauci is receiving a lot of support from doctors, scientists, and public health experts.

Not surprisingly, more and more experts are speaking out to defend Dr. Anthony Fauci.

Anthony Fauci is receiving a lot of support from doctors, scientists, and public health experts.
Anthony Fauci is receiving a lot of support from doctors, scientists, and public health experts.

These experts understand that Dr. Fauci “deserves our deepest gratitude and support” and is “our best hope in these challenging times.”

The Experts Defending Anthony Fauci

Harold Bauchner certainly wasn’t alone in stating his public support for Dr. Fauci.

“As 12,000 medical doctors, research scientists and public health experts on the front lines of COVID-19, the infectious diseases community will not be silenced nor sidelined amidst a global pandemic. Reports of a campaign to discredit and diminish the role of Dr. Fauci at this perilous moment are disturbing.”

IDSA Statement in Support of Anthony Fauci, M.D.

The Infectious Disease Society of America issued their own statement.

“If we have any hope of ending this crisis, all of America must support public health experts, including Dr. Fauci, and stand with science.”

IDSA Statement in Support of Anthony Fauci, M.D.

And so did the Association of American Medical Colleges, whose members comprise all 155 accredited U.S. and 17 accredited Canadian medical schools; nearly 400 major teaching hospitals and health systems, including 51 Department of Veterans Affairs medical centers; and more than 80 academic societies, with 173,000 faculty members, 89,000 medical students, 129,000 resident physicians, and more than 60,000 graduate students and postdoctoral researchers in the biomedical sciences.

“The AAMC is extremely concerned and alarmed by efforts to discredit Anthony Fauci, MD, our nation’s top infectious disease expert. Dr. Fauci has been an independent and outspoken voice for truth as the nation has struggled to fight the coronavirus pandemic….

Taking quotes from Dr. Fauci out of context to discredit his scientific knowledge and judgment will do tremendous harm to our nation’s efforts to get the virus under control, restore our economy, and return us to a more normal way of life.

America should be applauding Dr. Fauci for his service and following his advice, not undermining his credibility at this critical time.”

AAMC Statement in Support of Anthony Fauci, MD

Hopefully Dr. Fauci knows how much the majority of people value his work and trust his opinions.

“We have been very fortunate to have Dr. Anthony Fauci at the helm directing infectious diseases research at NIH for so many years. His leadership and support of a rigorous scientific process has been critical to transforming HIV from a death sentence to a chronic condition​, saving millions of lives worldwide. His voice and expertise need to be amplified not silenced if we are going to get control of the COVID-19 pandemic​, which has now taken the lives of more than 135,000 Americans and more than 570,000 people worldwide.”

HIV Medicine Association Stands with Science and Anthony Fauci, MD

And we know that the only way out of the COVID-19 pandemic is with our public health experts, like Anthony Fauci, leading the way.

“In his role as Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), Dr. Fauci has fostered a longstanding and productive collaboration with the ATS. He has faithfully served the American people through six presidential administrations, always providing sound, science‐based guidance to threats large and small. As we move forward to combat COVID‐19, his scientific knowledge, expertise, and counsel will continue to be of critical importance.”

Statement by the ATS Executive Committee supporting Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., Director, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

As cases of COVID-19 once again surge, one thing is becoming clear:

Science, not politics, must guide COVID-19 response

AIBS Supports Dr. Fauci

We can’t wish the SARS-CoV-2 virus away…

I am a pediatrician and #IStandWithFauci.

We need health experts like Anthony Fauci to help guide us through this. And we need people to listen to his advice.

More on Anthony Fauci

What Did the AAP Say About Sending Kids Back to School?

The AAP has offered guidance for a safe way to get our kids back in school during the COVID-19 pandemic. Will schools follow any of it when they open up?

The American Academy of Pediatrics recently issued some guidance about what to do about kids going to school this fall.

The AAP said a lot more than that parents should send their kids back to school. They offered guidance on how to safely send kids back to school...
The AAP said a lot more than that parents should send their kids back to school. They offered guidance on how to safely send kids back to school…

Not surprisingly, folks are a little confused about what they actually said…

What Did the AAP Say About Sending Kids Back to School?

It is true, the AAP guidance does favor opening up schools this fall.

“With the above principles in mind, the AAP strongly advocates that all policy considerations for the coming school year should start with a goal of having students physically present in school. The importance of in-person learning is well-documented, and there is already evidence of the negative impacts on children because of school closures in the spring of 2020. Lengthy time away from school and associated interruption of supportive services often results in social isolation, making it difficult for schools to identify and address important learning deficits as well as child and adolescent physical or sexual abuse, substance use, depression, and suicidal ideation. This, in turn, places children and adolescents at considerable risk of morbidity and, in some cases, mortality. Beyond the educational impact and social impact of school closures, there has been substantial impact on food security and physical activity for children and families.”

COVID-19 Planning Considerations: Guidance for School Re-entry

But, that isn’t all they said…

The goal is for kids to be in school this fall...

To get to that goal of opening schools, the AAP offered a list of key principles that schools should follow, including that:

  • school policies are going to have to be “flexible and nimble” so that they can quickly change as we get new information, especially “when specific policies are not working”
  • schools develop strategies that depend on the levels of COVID-19 cases in the school and community
  • schools make special considerations and accommodations for those who need them, “including those who are medically fragile, live in poverty, have developmental challenges, or have special health care needs or disabilities, with the goal of safe return to school”

So clearly, this is not a one-size-fits-all, lets open up schools no matter what kind of thing.

“Highest Risk: Full sized, in-person classes, activities, and events. Students are not spaced apart, share classroom materials or supplies, and mix between classes and activities.”

CDC on Considerations for Schools

The AAP didn’t say to simply open up schools without doing anything else…

“No single action or set of actions will completely eliminate the risk of SARS-CoV-2 transmission, but implementation of several coordinated interventions can greatly reduce that risk. For example, where physical distance cannot be maintained, students (over the age of 2 years) and staff can wear face coverings (when feasible). In the following sections, we review some general principles that policy makers should consider as they plan for the coming school year. For all of these, education for the entire school community regarding these measures should begin early, ideally at least several weeks before the start of the school year.”

COVID-19 Planning Considerations: Guidance for School Re-entry

They offered guidance on how to safely open schools.

Or at least how to open schools as safely as possible, as the alternative of keeping kids at home has risks too. And many people are skeptical that a strategy of closing schools is all that helpful in controlling the spread of SARS-CoV-2.

So the AAP guidance says that we open schools and also plan for:

  • Physical distancing – cohort classes, block schedules, rotating teachers instead of students, etc.
  • Cleaning and disinfecting
  • Testing and screening – schools will need a rapid response plan for when a child or staff member develops a fever at school.
  • Face Coverings and PPE – although it won’t be possible in all situations and for all children, “school staff and older students (middle or high school) may be able to wear cloth face coverings safely and consistently and should be encouraged to do so.”
  • Organized Activities – although this isn’t something most folks want to hear, they should understand that opening schools doesn’t mean that everything will be back to normal… “It is likely that sporting events, practices, and conditioning sessions will be limited in many locations.”

If we do all of that, will it really be safe to go to school with these guidelines?

Unfortunately, the most important part of the guidelines, the section on Testing and Screening, was a bit light on details…

“Parents should be instructed to keep their child at home if they are ill.”

COVID-19 Planning Considerations: Guidance for School Re-entry

The guidelines acknowledge that it will be too hard to do temperature checks and symptom screening each day and that schools should have a rapid response plan if anyone has a fever had school, but then what?

“Here in Colorado, I’ve been following our state health department website very closely. They update data every day and include the outbreaks in the state they are investigating. As you can imagine, there are lots and lots in long-term care facilities and skilled nursing homes, some in restaurants and grocery stores. There have been a total of four in child care centers, and we do have a lot of child care centers open. In almost every one of those cases, transmission was between two adults. The kids in the centers are not spreading Covid-19. I’m hearing the same thing from other states, as well.”

Why a Pediatric Group Is Pushing to Reopen Schools This Fall

So what’s going to happen if kids in school start to get sick and test positive for COVID-19?

Among the 950 COVID-19 in Texas daycare centers are 307 children.
Among the 950 COVID-19 in Texas daycare centers are 307 children. (Dallas Morning News)

The 60,000 members of the AAP who didn’t participate in writing the guideline know what’s going to happen…

A ton of parents from the school are going to call their pediatricians looking to get their kids tested!

What likely should happen?

That classroom or cohort and their close contacts should move to self-quarantine and home/online education until they pass the incubation period from their last contact.

“Put in place the infrastructure and resources to test, trace and isolate new cases.”

Safely Reopening America’s Schools and Communities

(I’m guessing we will get more details about this from the AAP soon and well before school starts. )

Most importantly though, our communities should do everything they can to keep their case counts down – wash hands, practice social distancing, wear a face cover.

And if we are going to send our kids back to school, we should make sure that we are protecting all of the folks making that possible.

Can we do all of that?

Sure!

Will we???

Sending Your Kids Back to School

Are you still unsure about whether or not you should send your own kids back to school?

I don’t blame you…

Some things to consider when making the decision:

  • is your child or any of their contacts at risk for a more severe case of COVID-19, including having an underlying, chronic medical condition, keeping in mind that the risk increases with age, especially once you reach age 65 years? If possible, online schooling might be a better option for students in high risk categories.
  • was staying home from school hard for your child? If your child had problems learning at home or the social isolation was an issue, than that would make going back to school even more important.
  • will your school or school district be “flexible and nimble” and respond to new information, rising case counts, and evolve their policies if necessary?

Most importantly, if you send your kids back to school, are you going to be constantly worried that they are going to get COVID-19 or bring home the SARS-CoV-2 virus? If so, then keep them home this fall.

On the other hand, if they are healthy, have no high risk contacts at home, and are eager to go back to school, then you should probably feel comfortable sending them if the school follows the guidance offered by the AAP.

More on COVID-19

Why Are Social Distancing Kids Still Getting Sick?

Why are some kids still getting sick if they are have been our of school and stuck in the house for weeks because of COVID-19?

COVID-19 has kept most kids out of school for some time now. Many are also out of daycare. And few are out playing with friends.

So why are some still getting sick? What else is going on with kids stuck at home while we are all social distancing to flatten the curve.

Why Are Social Distancing Kids Still Getting Sick?

The first thought of some parents and pediatric providers upon reading this might be, wait, what, kids are still getting sick?

Flu activity is low in most of the United States.
Flu activity is low in most of the United States.

And that’s because it does seem that in addition to flattening the COVID-19 curve, staying home from school and daycare, washing hands, and general social distancing techniques has worked to keeps from getting sick with the flu and most other contagious diseases!

So while pediatric providers are available to do telemedicine appointments, it certainly isn’t business as usual, even as their days have gotten quite unusual.

Some kids are still getting sick though, and while we know what you are thinking, most probably don’t have COVID-19.

Why?

It might be because:

  1. they aren’t social distancing as well as they think they are, keeping in mind that with many diseases, people can be contagious for a few days before they show symptoms and you can sometimes catch germs from touching fomites, or objects that a sick person has recently touched. That still doesn’t mean that they have COVID-19 though. If they have contact with others, they could catch almost anything.
  2. they caught something from someone who had a disease a few weeks or months ago and is still shedding. For example, some infants can shed RSV for as long as 4 weeks after they get better. And they can shed the virus that causes hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD) for almost two months! Human parainfluenza viruses (HPIV), a common cause of colds and croup (seal bark cough), can also shed for many months.
  3. they caught something from someone who had a viral disease that causes a lifelong latent infection with periodic reactivation and shedding. Wait, what? While herpes (cold sores) is the main disease you might think of as causing a lifelong latent infection, there are others. You may not realize this, but after getting roseola (causes a high fever for a few days, followed by a rash after the fever breaks), HHV-6 (human herpes virus-6) kind of does the same thing. The big difference is that while you shed HHV-6 in your saliva from time to time, you don’t have any symptoms. You can get other folks sick though, especially older infants, once they lose the passive immunity they got from maternal antibodies.
  4. they have a sore throat caused by a virus, allergies, or reflux, but have tonsil stones and a positive strep test because they are a strep carrier. Nearly 20% of kids are thought to be carriers of strep, which means that every time they get tested, they will be positive, whether or not they actually have strep throat. That means that you don’t have to worry about testing the dog to see if they are carrying strep…
  5. they were exposed to a disease with a long incubation period. While the incubation period (the time between getting exposed to something to when you get sick) is just a few days for many diseases, it can be several weeks or months for others. In fact, your child might not get sick until 30 to 50 days after being exposed to someone with mono!
  6. they had a virus a few weeks ago and now have Gianotti Crosti syndrome (GCS), a post-viral rash on a child’s legs, arms, and buttocks. Although GCS might linger for weeks or months, it eventually goes away on its own. Another rash, this one likely caused by reactivation of the virus that causes roseola, might have you thinking your child is covered in ringworm (how would they get that if they haven’t left the house??). Instead, they likely have pityriasis rosea.
  7. their symptoms are caused by a non-contagious infectious disease that is spread from an animal or insect and not from another person – think Lyme disease (ticks), Cat scratch disease (cats), and West Nile virus (mosquitoes), etc.
  8. they got sick (bacteria, virus, or parasite) from contaminated lake or well water, which can cause diarrhea – giardiasis, Crypto, shigellosis, norovirus,
  9. they got sick (bacteria, virus, or parasite) from eating raw or contaminated food – giardiasis, shigellosis, norovirus, E. coli, salmonellosis
  10. their symptoms are caused by a non-infectious disease, which could be anything from allergies and asthma to poison ivy or herpes zoster (shingles).

It is also possible that their symptoms are being caused by anxiety, fear, and stress, which is not unexpected as they see schools closed, people getting sick and wearing masks, and are likely unsure about what’s coming next.

Has your child been sick recently?

Do you have a pet turtle or chickens in your backyard? They could be a source for Salmonella…

Do you understand why now?

Now call your pediatric provider if you have questions and need help getting them well, especially if they seem anxious or have extra stress from being home all of the time and away from school and their friends.

You especially want to call if you think that they might actually have COVID-19. While most kids have mild symptoms or are asymptomatic, if your child has a fever, cough, and difficulty breathing, you should call your pediatric provider or seek medical attention.

More on Covid-19 Kids Getting Sick

Telemedicine for Parents and Pediatric Providers

Ideally, we would continue to see kids in our office when they are sick, but until the COVID-19 pandemic is over, telemedicine is a great alternative to help us keep all of our kids healthy and recognize when they are truly sick, perhaps even needing immediate medical attention.

Many parents and pediatric providers are getting a crash course in telemedicine because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Although using virtual visits when kids are sick certainly isn’t a new idea, many things have gotten in the way of making online visits to pediatric offices more popular. Chief among them is the simple fact that most people prefer an in-person, in-office visit.

Telemedicine for Parents and Pediatric Providers

Unfortunately, with the risk of spreading the SARS-CoV-2 virus, even when kids don’t have symptoms, in-office visits aren’t always possible and certainly aren’t always safe anymore.

That doesn’t mean that your pediatric provider is going to close, as other non-essential businesses are doing.

Newborns, infants, children, and teens still need to be seen for essential preventative care and when they are sick.

Be flexible. Consider modifying your clinical schedule and physical space to minimize risk. Increase capacity to deliver telehealth when possible.”

Sally Goza, MD, FAAP President, American Academy of Pediatrics

Still, we are going to have to change how we provide that care until the COVID-19 pandemic is over.

Remember, while it is true that kids aren’t thought to be at risk for severe COVID-19 symptoms, they likely can still get and spread the spreading SARS-CoV-2 virus.

That’s why most pediatric providers are encouraging patients with fever and respiratory symptoms (URI, cough, runny nose, difficulty breathing) to stay home and are instead moving to phone/virtual consultations.

And with community spread in more and more areas, many are switching to telemedicine visits for any non-essential visit. Is your child due for an ADHD recheck? Do you need to discuss test results or need your pediatrician to look at a rash? Is your child constipated? With the risk of COVID-19, these are all ideal reasons to ask for a telemedicine appointment instead of visiting the office.

“Aetna announced it will offer zero co-pay telemedicine visits nationally for any reason for the next 90 days for all commercial plans. Humana, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey, and others have announced similar expansions of telehealth coverage.”

Opportunities To Expand Telehealth Use Amid The Coronavirus Pandemic

Before COVID-19, the simple fact that most insurance companies didn’t pay for telemedicine visits got in the way of there becoming more popular. That’s changed now, as have some laws and regulations (especially HIPAA restrictions) that had previously made it harder to do telemedicine.

Making the Most of Your Telemedicine Visit With Your Pediatric Provider

While some parents likely are excited about doing telemedicine visits, since they can be more convenient than visiting the office, many others probably still have doubts.

However you feel about it, since it is likely that your child might need a telemedicine visit before this is all over, let’s look at how we can all make the most of it.

To start, if possible, make the telemedicine visit with your usual pediatric provider or someone else in their office. Sign their telehealth consent form and review other polices and procedures before your online appointment.

It can also help if, just before the visit, you:

  • weigh your child
  • check your child’s temperature
  • check your child’s heart rate or pulse
  • check your child’s respiratory rate (count the breaths per minute)
  • write down all of the medicines your child has been taking
  • write down all of your child’s symptoms, including how long they have had them and if they are getting better or worse
  • write down how your child’s symptoms are affecting their eating, sleeping, and other activities, for example, are they drinking fluids, playful, consolable, or are they just crying all of the time?
  • write down any questions you have, as you might forget them during the telemedicine visit!
  • make sure you have a flashlight handy in case your provider wants to take a look at your child’s throat. Maybe even practice having them open wide before the visit.

And most importantly, understand how you are going to connect to your pediatric provider for the online visit! Are you using Facetime, Skype, or a website like doxy.me, etc?

Telemedicine Do’s and Don’ts

Are you and your child (yes, you want your child to be with you during the telemedicine visit!) ready for your first telemedicine visit with your pediatric provider?

Do have everything ready at home and be prepared for when your pediatric provider “shows up” to the visit.

It is also a good idea that you:

  • don’t use medical terminology, like lethargic (is your child really hard to wake up?), dehydrated (just mention the last time your child urinated, etc.), or say that your child is having trouble breathing (is your child breathing fast and hard or having trouble catching their breath?) – instead, just describe what your child is doing and how they are acting, which, since it is a telemedicine visit, your provider will actually get to see for themselves!
  • don’t say that you can’t control your child’s fever, if what you really mean is that it goes back up after their fever reducer wears off, and remember that fever is typically just a symptom, like a cough or runny nose, and not a sign of how sick your child is
  • don’t ask for or expect a prescription, especially for an antibiotic, just because you had an online visit with your provider. Studies have found high rates of antibiotic prescribing during telemedicine visits, especially for kids with respiratory infections, and that hopefully won’t continue as telehealth becomes more popular.
  • avoid sitting in a dark or noisy room, as that will make it harder for your provider to see and hear you

And at the end of the visit, make sure you understand your child’s diagnosis, recommendations for treatment, and most importantly, don’t forget to ask when you should expect that your child should begin to get better and the signs to look for that might indicate that they are getting worse.

“We recognize we are all practicing pediatrics in circumstances we have never encountered before in our careers.”

Sally Goza, MD, FAAP President, American Academy of Pediatrics

Are there limits to telemedicine?

Sure.

We can’t sew up a cut that needs stitches, for example, but you know what? If your child falls and cuts themselves, we can do a telemedicine visit to let you know if they do need stitches, maybe saving you a visit to the office or the ER.

Ideally, we would continue to see kids in our office when they are sick, but until the COVID-19 pandemic is over, telemedicine is a great alternative to help us keep all of our kids healthy and recognize when they are truly sick, perhaps even needing immediate medical attention.

More on Telemedicine for Parents and Pediatricians