How to Care for Kids If You're Sick With Covid-19
It’s every parent’s worst nightmare. We asked pediatric infectious disease experts for advice and hand-holding.
As a new parent, one of the first things you learn is that taking care of a baby is really, really hard. In normal times, my husband and I lean heavily on an extended network of caregivers—grandparents, friends, babysitters, and daycare—for help with the monumental, sometimes mind-numbing task of caring for young children.
But these are not normal times. Social distancing has stripped us of our caregiver network. It’s a necessary public health tactic to slow the fast and potentially deadly spread of Covid-19 (in viral form it's known as the novel coronavirus or SARS-CoV-2). But taking care of kids on your own is hard. It’s also scary when facing the specter of grave illness. What happens if one of you gets sick? What if both of you get sick?
Designate a Caregiver
First, let’s plan for the worst-case scenario. If both you and your partner are incapacitated at the same time, or need to be hospitalized at the same time, you need to designate a caregiver. Unfortunately, if both you and your partner are sick, that means your children are also probably infected,
We know that SARS-CoV-2 disproportionately affects older individuals and risk of complications and mortality is highest in the elderly, so if feasible, it would be best to have the child stay with an aunt or uncle while the parents and child recover
Before You Get Sick, Make a Crisis Plan:
- Who is going to take care of your kids?
- Your dog?
- Identify nearby friends or family members who can help and are not in a high-risk population.
- Post potential caregiver contact information prominently so that emergency responders can find it. If you have no one to ask, a hospital can usually advise you on community resources for families in crisis.
We have no family nearby, so I have asked several childless, low-risk friends to be emergency caregivers
Isolate, but Stay in Your Home
Now for the good news: “Unless a family member is at higher risk for contracting a severe case of Covid-19 or any viral illness due to age and/or existing health complications, then the same measures are recommended for Covid-19 as would be for influenza or another viral respiratory infection
Keep High-Traffic Areas Clean
There are plenty of smart ways to clean and disinfect your home, but you don’t need to go nuts. If your spouse is quarantining in the bedroom, you don’t need to wear gloves and dump his contaminated soup bowl into a vat of boiling bleach. “We don’t want you doing disposable trays or anything like that,” “We know this virus is very easily cleaned by household cleaners. You don’t have to mix your own detergents or buy anything super strong.” The important exception is the bathroom. “Several studies have come out regarding the role of feco-oral transmission of this virus, in addition to respiratory droplets,” said Dr. Soni. In other words, when he uses the bathroom, your sick loved one is shedding virus in the form of gross flying poop particles.
Prepare your child mentally: Keep your child informed about the plan without sounding alarmist. Such a situation is bound to be harrowing for them too and a conversation about the possibility of it happening can help them manage their anxiety better. Speak in a calm and reassuring way, explaining the process step by step. Reiterate that the recovery rate for COVID 19 is high
Monitor symptoms: Monitor your symptoms as well as the
child's closely. If your child is old enough to take temperature readings, teach them how to do it correctly. The CDC recommends that temperature is checked twice a day. Also inform the child on what other symptoms they should watch out for, whether that's coughing or shortness of breath. Keep a list of emergency contacts, including your healthcare provider and ambulance numbers, in an accessible place and tell your child about it too.
Minimise risk: According to the CDC, everyone at home who is above the age of 2 years, is able to remove the mask by themselves and does not have breathing issues, should be masked at all times if there is a COVID-19 patient at home. Surfaces should be disinfected frequently. A distance of at least six feet should be maintained between you and your child. Any item you give the child should be disinfected, except food.
Figure out communication: If you have COVID-19, you will not be able to hug your child or touch them in any way without putting them at risk. Children, especially younger ones, may find this very difficult. Even if you are sharing the same space, you can consider coming up with creative and fun ways to communicate, just to liven up the atmosphere. Perhaps you can speak over the phone (with your child using one that you don't use), make video calls or send each other emails if you have devices that are not shared. Get a family member or friend to speak to them regularly over the phone.
Be kind to yourself: Remember that you are unwell and need rest. Don't take on more than you can chew. Keep housework to the bare minimum. Reach out to support groups or online therapy if you feel you need to talk to someone about your situation. You can also read about how other parents have managed such situations to get ideas and stay calm.
Pooja Shah is a post graduate in economics and worked as a teacher in a reputed institution for almost 5 years. She is a mother of two kids, she is an avid reader and carries passion for writing.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this post are the personal views of the author. They do not necessarily reflect the views of The Mom Store.