Preventing Viral Infections in Kids

May 19

young boy with mask on trying to prevent corona virus

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Preventing viral infections seems to be everyone’s main concern right now. When you have young kids and babies to care for, viral infections like the Coronavirus can be scary and intimidating. Especially with all the information pouring in from the news and social media.

But after working in the emergency room as a Registered Nurse for 13 years, you tend to learn a few things. . .

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor nor am I your nurse. I cannot assess your situation enough to offer medical advice. If you have any concerns about your baby’s health, you should consult your physician. I am not liable for information included on this blog and cannot guarantee results. This post is for informational purposes only.

Preventing Viral Infections- The Facts

little boy preventing viral infection spread by covering cough

Let’s get a few things straightened out.

Covid-19 is spread by droplet. Meaning someone has to cough or sneeze towards your face in order for you to catch it.

Very rarely is this virus ‘aerosolized’ unless in a hospital setting or prolonged close contact with an individual that has it.

These virus droplets can live on surfaces for up a few days. If you happen to touch something that has enough of the virus on it and then proceed to touch your face, you can catch the virus by inhaling it into your lungs.

This particular virus can only attach itself inside the lungs, through your mouth, nose, and eyes.

Coronavirus mortality rate is fluid and constantly changing based on a multitude of factors. But at this time, it has LESS THAN a 0.1% (click here to check the daily stats) death rate for individuals in the U.S.

Symptoms of Coronavirus are dry cough (that means no phlegm) and fever (which can include body aches), and general fatigue.

The problem is that it can cause pneumonia and difficulty breathing (shortness of breath) especially in at risk individuals. Such as people with underlying medical conditions such as diabetes, elderly, chemo or HIV patients, transplant patients, smokers, etc.

Pneumonia or shortness of breath with viral infection WILL require hospitalization.

What you can do to help with preventing viral infections in your children

young boy wearing a medical mask preventing viral infections

It is an easy reminder of what to do so you or your kids won’t get sick.

So, what can we as moms do to protect our children?

You can get my free Virus Prevention Checklist for Kids here:

At this time, preventing Corona Virus (or any other virus) is almost like how you would prevent the flu. The problem is that there is no vaccine available yet to the general public to take for Covid-19.

Good hand hygiene

Washing your hands frequently for 20 seconds with soap and water is the best and most effective way to prevent contracting illnesses.

It is never easy to keep little kids’ hands clean. So another effective way to disinfect hands is to use hand sanitizer that has a 60% or higher alcohol level.

Sooooo much easier in a pinch.

Social distancing

Practice social distancing? But what exactly is social distancing?

Sorry kids. We are going to have to refrain from large birthday parties, or parties that gather at play centers like Chuck-E-Cheese.

Kids aren’t the best at hygiene and infection prevention. So the most effective way to keep them safe is to keep them away from people who may have the virus and surfaces that the virus may have landed on.

If your kids are old enough that they have stopped putting things in their mouth (ie. nail biting, not washing hands before eating), and they have a good handle on hand hygiene, then I would say maybe, it may be okay to go. But why risk it?

They are even starting to close schools for a few weeks and go on lock-down in certain cities to help prevent the spread of the virus.

Stop touching your face!

A mask is not necessary unless you are in close contact with another person who might have a viral illness.

But, it is a great reminder to stop touching your face! According to a pulmonary and critical care specialist physician on the front lines of this epidemic in NYC, you get infected my touching something with the virus on it, then touching your face.

This is a near impossible task for kids, you can try (depending on the age) . But you will have to try to prevent by focusing on all the other techniques.

What I do with my 2 and 4 year old is whenever they touch something, before they can touch their face, I hand sanitize them. We do the best we can.

Hydration

asian boy drinking from a water bottle to prevent viral infections

When viruses ‘colonize’ (accumulate) in your lungs, your body is eventually unable to fight them off, and you get sick.

But how do those viruses get into your lungs? Well, through your mouth and nasal passages. But your body is smart. It has many defenses against these little bugs.

Mucus helps make the passages ‘stickier’ so that the viruses get stuck on the way down hopefully preventing it from entering your lungs.

Cilia line your mucus membranes and they quite literally push things up and away from your lungs.

Coughing and sneezing physically push the viruses out of your lungs.

And some other more advanced processes in the blood stream that help to protect you as well.

But what does all this have to do with hydration?

The act of drinking water helps in preventing viral infections because it will physically wash out your mouth and throat of germs, away from your lungs and into your digestive tract where your stomach acid will kill it.

Also, staying hydrated will help all those natural processes work efficiently to prevent you from getting sick.

So drink plenty of water! It’s not just an old wives tale!

Zinc

Zinc has been shown to inhibit replication of viruses, even Coronavirus, making it harder for the virus to colonize in your system and make you sick.

They recommend zinc lozenges to use for adults but they are a choking hazard for children.

So what can you do for your kids?

Zinc Lollipops for kids to the rescue! They are way less of a choking hazard!

This will help after your kids have been exposed to a large group of children, like at the indoor play centers, amusement parks, or birthday parties.

And they won’t even realize they are taking ‘medicine’.

Cleanliness

Use disinfecting wipes often, especially when out and about. You don’t know if someone sneezed on your shopping cart earlier.

Viruses can last on hard surfaces for up to several days! But these wipes are VERY effective at killing the virus.

Again, if you touch something with germs on it and then proceed to touch your face, there is a high probability that you can get sick.

So uses those wipes!

Frequently asked questions: on preventing viral infections

Let’s address some recurring questions that seem to keep popping up.

Why does everything need to close down because of something like Coronavirus?

The main reason why large gatherings of people (schools, concerts, work, nursing homes, etc.) is because our hospitals have a limited amount of hospital beds and staff available to care for patients.

If a significantly large amount of people get sick at the same time and need hospital beds and help breathing with ventilators, it will bombard our healthcare system with patients that are critically ill.

What does this mean for us? Well, we won’t be allowed to get sick. We cannot have heart attacks, we cannot have strokes. No one is allowed to need surgery for their appendix or gallbladder. We cannot break any bones, or get the flu. There will be no room for you!

That’s why it is important to prioritize limiting the spread of the virus. At least until they can make a vaccine for it.

So until we can get a handle on this virus like we do the flu, prepare for lots of social distancing, mandatory lock downs, and possible self-quarantine so our healthcare system doesn’t collapse.

Personally, I would rather social distance and stay ‘safer at home’ for a while than possibly lose my sense of smell from covid, or get covid toes (my toes are already weird enough looking as it is).

Why aren’t you freaking out?

As someone who has worked in several different emergency rooms as a nurse for 13 years, I got to see a lot. A lot worse than this virus. It’s true people are dying, and it is scary, but the mortality rate is far less than that of the regular flu.

But it’s a novel virus (newly identified)? How are you so calm?

Because we will get a handle on this, eventually. It will take some time, but social distancing and good hand hygiene should keep you safe. There are other situations that have a much higher mortality rate (rate of deaths) than this virus.

Ebola. Ebola is worse. Much worse with a 50% survival rate. . .

Car accidents.

Drownings.

Strokes.

Heart attacks.

Meningitis.

Drug overdoses.

Cancer. Cancer is worse.

Yet we somehow get through it without collectively freaking out. We persevere, most of the time non-nonchalantly. This should happen with this virus as well, just like all the other viruses we have experienced.

This may be a fast spreading virus, and we do not know everything about it yet, but it is generally relatively mild in it’s manifestation (for the majority of people, especially kids according to Forbes).

Update:

Recently, more children are getting sick and diagnosed with Kawasaki Syndrome (physicians weekly states the cases are “small but increasing”). This is a very serious condition that affects some of the vessels in the body, ultimately leading to chronic heart problems and aneurysms.

Still, use the same precautions listed above to help protect your children from viruses. Just keep a close eye on them for signs and symptoms of Kawasaki Syndrome.

medicalnewstoday.com

The issue is that some people (and they don’t know exactly why yet) contract the virus, they do very poorly and often do not survive.

So we are social distancing and staying home for our own health, but mostly for our grandparents, parents, friends, and neighbors that either can’t protect themselves with social distancing, or are more susceptible to contracting the virus and dying from it.

As long as we ALL do what we can to ‘flatten the curvemost of us should come out of this unscathed.

So prevent it like any other viral infection prevention (with some extra social distancing and possible self-quarantine).

Should I tell my kids about what is going on with the Coronavirus epidemic?

This depends on your child and their ability to comprehend issues bigger than their little world, and also how well developed their coping mechanisms are.

To your discretion, mama. No one else will know what is best for your child.

I always tell my older child (almost 4) as much as I can without scaring him:

“Everyone is getting sick right now, so make sure you try not to touch the cross walk button with your hands, use your elbow.”

“Baby, wash your hands, you have to wash the germs off so you don’t get sick.”

I do not panic. He needs to learn how to stay calm even when the world is going nuts. And he will have a very hard time learning that if I don’t show him what calm looks like.

Don’t get me wrong, I do scold him when needed.

Like when I see him putting his hands to his mouth after playing with the community toys at the dentist. *sigh*

We are getting there, slowly but surely. Until then, we do our best.

Should I be stockpiling like everyone else seems to be doing?

stockpile of toilet paper

A good friend of mine works as an emergency manager for UCLA. She is not shaming people for preparing. Her point of view is that everyone should have a 2 week supply of whatever they will need in case of an emergency. She is happy people are becoming aware. But she does not advocate HOARDING!

Please do not fight with others at the store for the last roll of toilet paper. I mean, really? Humans are resourceful. A lack of toilet paper can make you feel a little desperate, but it is not necessarily an emergency. So lets just relax on the over purchasing the toilet paper.

There is no indication that the tap water or other utilities will be turned off.

So having an entire truck bed full of waters bottles may not be necessary. Yes, I witnessed this in real life. It was so heavy that it weighed the Toyota Tundra down to the height of it’s little sister the Camry. And no, tap water will not kill you.

Stay calm, if you come across some supplies that you need, then get some. Some being the operative word. Not all of it. Other people need to feel prepared too in case we go into complete lock down mode.

As long as we get our supplies that we need in an orderly fashion and do not perpetuate this doomsday attitude, then we will all get through this.

Social distancing and isolating is to prevent the spread of the virus.

This is not a hurricane. This is not a earthquake. And it should not be treated as such either.

What if preventing viral infections did not work and what do I do if my kids get sick?

littel girl in bed with head on her forehead, sick with a viral infection

First thing, don’t panic. You cannot help your child if you are not at full capacity.

  1. Self-quarantine (your entire household)
  2. Thermometer (it’s important to know how high the temp is)
  3. Tylenol every 4 hours (avoid Motrin with Coronavirus)
  4. Humidifier (make sure it is super clean inside)
  5. Vicks for soles of feet (maybe an old wives tale, but we love it anyway)
  6. Hydration (small constant sips, popsicles, pedialyte, jello, etc.)
  7. Hand hygiene (hand washing and hand sanitizer)
  8. *Update: Watch for signs and symptoms of Kawasaki Syndrome.

That’s it. Basic symptomatic care and extra love.

UPDATE:

There is evidence that shows Motrin is not working against Coronavirus, so just stick to Tylenol every 4 hours instead. Even if it’s another virus, Tylenol should still do the trick.

If the fever is not controlled with the Tylenol and Motrin or if they are having any difficulty breathing, you need to take them to the emergency room right away.

Call ahead with your baby’s symptoms. Also make sure you both have a mask on so you don’t infect anyone else there. You can usually get one at the front of the ER.

Now, if your child has a preexisting health condition, especially a respiratory one, consult your doctor before they get sick so you can map out a plan ahead of time with your doctor.

Preventing Viral Infections in Kids-Last Thoughts:

Let’s think of it like this: The main reason we need to protect ourselves from this virus is so that we don’t spread it to our vulnerable population and overwhelm our healthcare system.

Because right now, that is mostly who dies from this virus. The immuno-compromised, the cancer patients, the elderly, people with multiple underlying medical conditions.

But a very small percentage does include normally healthy individuals.

Best way to protect yourself and your family from viruses:

  1. Wash/sanitize your hands OFTEN!
  2. Stop touching your face (if you aren’t sick, a mask is mostly just a reminder to keep your hands away from your face.
  3. Social distancing and limiting visits from and to family and friends.
  4. Use disinfecting wipes on surfaces.
  5. Zinc may help.
  6. Self-quarantine as needed.

We have to keep our kids safe from this virus because those little guys are germ spreading machines. It’s a good thing that Disneyland closed. If one child has the virus there, it can spread like wildfire.

Be safe.

Use common sense.

Stay calm.

Mommy on.

You’ve got this! And if you still feel like you don’t, leave me a comment below or email me. Let’s talk about it.

If you need more resources on how to stay calm, happy and centered through these trying times, check out my post on “How I Stay Happy Without ‘Self Care’ as a Mommy

Don’t forget to sign up to get my free “Virus Prevention Checklist for Kids” below:

All the love,

-Jen

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