Navigating the Holidays with Covid-19 and Kids
Navigating the Holidays with Covid-19 and Kids
October 21, 2020

Navigating the Holidays with Covid-19 and Kids

Navigating the Holidays with Covid-19 and Kids.
Navigating the Holidays with Covid-19 and Kids

The holiday season just got a lot more complicated.

Navigating the holidays with kids, family and travel can be tricky during an average year. This year’s Covid-19 pandemic adds an extra layer of complication—and worry—to what’s already a hectic, anxiety-producing time of the year for many parents.

Questions around how to mitigate the risks of Covid-19 in the face of holiday travel and family get-togethers are already on the minds of lots of parents. Is it safe to fly with a baby during a pandemic? If you’re visiting friends or family, should you stick with outdoors only, or are indoor visits okay? What about seeing elderly relatives? And should you get a Covid-19 test before you go?

Unfortunately, there are no right answers to many of these difficult questions. Navigating the holidays during a pandemic comes down to finding a way to manage risks—your own, your community’s, and those of the people you’ll be seeing. And while we can’t answer these tough questions for you, we can give you the evidence-based information you need to help inform your decisions.

We talked with two leading pediatricians, Dr. Mona Amin, DO, pediatrician and mother and host of The Pedsdoctalk Podcast, and Dr. Brittany DiBardino, pediatrician at Tribeca Pediatrics, and asked them some of the most common questions from parents about navigating the pandemic during the upcoming holiday season.

Covid-19 + Kids: The Latest Info

What’s the latest information about the risks and complications for infants and toddlers if they contract coronavirus?

“Children continue to show that they are the least likely age group to experience severe illness. Although severe illness is still rare, limited data suggests that infants (children under age one) are at a slightly higher risk of severe illness from Covid-19 than older children. This is because their immune systems are immature and their airways are smaller, making breathing issues more serious. Furthermore, kids may be more likely to lack obvious symptoms, which just reinforces how important social distancing is for all ages,” says Dr. DiBardino.

Children with certain underlying medical conditions are at risk of more complications from Covid-19, according to Dr. Amin. These include obesity, medically complex children, severe genetic disorders and severe neurologic disorders that can impact breathing, inherited metabolic disorders, congenital heart disease, uncontrolled asthma and immunosuppression due to malignancy or immune-weakening medications. She also notes that some children have developed a rare condition called multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MIS-C); however, we still don’t know the risk factors for developing this condition.

What’s the best resource for parents to get the most up-to-date information on Covid-19 + kids?

Always consult with your pediatrician about any questions or concerns you have about coronavirus and children.

Dr. DiBardino and Dr. Amin also recommend the following resources:

Travel: What’s Safe and What’s Not?

What’s a good framework to start from when trying to decide on travel this holiday season?

When thinking about traveling during the pandemic, here are the questions you need to ask yourself as you make your decision:

  • Is anyone in your family high risk? (Immunocompromised, severely obese and/or over 65 years old?)
  • Is anyone you’ll be visiting considered high risk?
  • Is the coronavirus in high transmission in your area or in the area you’ll be traveling to?
  • How old are your children and how likely are they to practice pandemic-safe measures like mask-wearing and social distancing?

“When deciding to travel, think about all those involved,” says Dr. Amin. “Is anyone in the family considered high risk? For a healthy child with parents with no medical problems, travel is possible. Risk is there, but actions can be taken to reduce risk as much as possible. You also want to think of anyone you may visit on your travels who may be higher risk, including elderly family members. If that’s the case, remember we can bring germs to these higher risk family members.”

You’ll also want to look into the current rates of coronavirus transmission both in your own community and where you’ll be traveling. “Consider if Covid-19 is in high-transmission in your community and the community you are traveling to,” says Dr. Amin. “If it is, this is a higher risk for contracting the illness. Remember that if you do travel from an area of high transmission, some locations are requiring a self-quarantine for 14 days. As you travel in a pandemic, understand that at any point, restrictions and guidelines may change.”

And keep in mind the ages of your children and how easily they’ll be able to follow the proper pandemic safety protocols. “Babies you can wear in a carrier are less likely to come in contact with contaminated surfaces than toddler kids who may struggle with mask wearing and proper hand washing/sanitizer use. Older children who can properly wear masks, wash their hands and follow directions are easier to travel with-especially during pandemics!” says Dr. DiBardino.

Planes, trains and automobiles: what’s the risk?

“Air travel requires spending time in security lines and terminals, which can bring you in close contact with other people and frequently touched surfaces. Check with your airline to see how full the flight is and what precautions they are taking. Social distancing is difficult on crowded flights, and sitting within 6 feet of others, sometimes for hours, may increase your risk of getting Covid-19,” says Dr. DiBardino.

“Driving will pose a lower risk,” says Dr. Amin, but you’ll need to be mindful of certain things. Here’s what she recommends:

  • Take hand sanitizer, hand soap in a reusable travel container, and/or hand wipes along on your trip.
  • If you use a rest stop, touch any items in the restroom for your child and wash their hands and your hands after use.
  • Bring plenty of snacks and water on your trip to limit having to purchase things on the road.

Covid-19 Testing: Helpful or Harmful?

Does a negative Covid-19 test mean it’s safe to celebrate with family and friends during the holidays?

“Testing prior to seeing family and friends is not recommended. These tests aren’t perfect. A positive test is reliable, however a negative test does not mean you can’t have Covid-19—it’s only a pinpoint of time and doesn’t mean a person doesn’t have the virus,” says Dr. Amin.

What is more important than testing is talking through what everyone is comfortable with and setting some rules that everyone will follow during holiday visits.

  • Will everyone wear masks?
  • Will you meet outdoors or indoors?
  • Will you practice social distancing?
  • How many people will be in the group?

Hosting and Visiting Family and Friends During Covid-19

Is gathering indoors with a mask safe?

“There are degrees to which you can mitigate the risk of socializing indoors with friends or family, none of which are perfect,” says Dr. DiBardino. “Each individual needs to decide how to cope with the balance between seeing others and the risk of contracting Covid-19 depending on their risk factors for developing severe illness. At the minimum, judicious use of masks, hand hygiene and staying six feet apart will reduce the rate of transmission. Additional measures include having all members of the social gathering quarantining for roughly 10 days before the social event.”

If you do decide to meet indoors, is there anything you can do to mitigate the risks?

“Indoor risk mitigation includes: masking, avoiding meeting with anyone who is sick, frequent hand washing, not serving buffet-style meals, limiting shared items as much as possible and keeping groups as small as possible,” says Dr. Amin.

What about visiting elderly parents or grandparents over the holidays during the pandemic? Is it safe?

“It’s important to look at risk. A family member over age 65 with any medical problems (cancer, COPD, heart or kidney disease, obesity, sickle cell, Type 2 diabetes, smoking) is higher risk than an elderly family member who is healthy,” says Dr. Amin.

And although children less often become critically ill from coronavirus, they can spread the virus to other groups that are considered higher risk such as older adults and those with chronic medical conditions, Dr. DiBardino points out.

“It’s important to consider the health status of the people your children will be visiting. Having everyone who can (kids over two years old) wear a mask, trying to stay 6 feet apart and spending as much time as possible outside would make the visitation less risky. Also please get your flu shot!” she says.

Experts Referenced in this Article

  • Dr. Mona Amin, DO, pediatrician, mother and host of The Pedsdoctalk Podcast
  • Dr. Brittany DiBardino, pediatrician at Tribeca Pediatrics

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