Pediatrician shares tips for protecting kids from COVID at school

Posted at 10:22 AM, Jan 05, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-05 11:22:47-05

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — After a winter break filled with omicron cases, a pediatrician at Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt shares tips for parents to help their kids stay healthy as they return to their classrooms.

Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt Professor of Pediatrics Dr. Joseph Gigante said the omicron variant knows no bounds, "I just read today... over 1 million people were diagnosed with COVID over the last 24 hours. So, it is much more contagious. What we're seeing in adults is mirroring what we're seeing with children as well: More kids are getting infected with coronavirus and with this omicron," Gigante said.

He admitted he is worried COVID cases among children will jump during the month of January as students return to their desks alongside other students and the height of the omicron variant is predicted for mid-January.

Dr. Gigante explained there are several steps parents can take to help keep their children safe:

  1. Vaccinate eligible children: "I think one of the big concerns parents have voiced as well, 'It's kind of' quote-unquote, 'a new vaccine and we're experimenting on our children.' The fact of the matter is, we've given hundreds and millions of doses of the vaccine and quite frankly, if there was going to be some untoward side effect or some major complication from the vaccine, we would have seen it by now."
  2. Live a healthy lifestyle: "If they have a fever, they should stay home and they should be fever-free for at least 24 hours before going back to school. I think otherwise. I mean, trying to do all the things that you can do to keep your child healthy, so be sure they get lots of sleep, be sure they're not skipping any meals, have a good diet. It's obviously, it's wintertime and it's cold outside but just getting them out, keeping them active."
  3. Wear masks: "This has been a controversial topic, quite frankly, but I think if parents are worried or concerned about their child and want to keep them safe, I think wearing a mask makes sense. I mean, it's something that they can do to keep their child safe...Try to make it fun, you know, if there is a superhero or something that they really like, try to get a mask along those lines. Any [good mask] is better than no mask."

Gigante said he wishes more parents would heed accredited medical advice in regard to the coronavirus.
"We actually just took care of a 2-month-old yesterday who tested positive for COVID and thankfully that child has actually had a fever and had cough but was able to go home," explained Gigante. "The fact of the matter is there's still over 1,000 people dying every day from coronavirus. So it's not just a cold. People don't die from the cold. People die from COVID and from getting infected with the coronavirus. So, anything that you can do to help prevent the virus from infecting your children or affecting yourself, I would strongly urge you to do that."

He said he and his colleagues are hoping the next coronavirus variant will not be as debilitating as omicron has been.

"I didn't think we wouldn't be here today if you had asked me a year ago," he said. "But if unfortunately, you know, I think this is something that we see with viruses that they do mutate. And now we're seeing this omicron variant that is so highly contagious. You know, I am keeping my fingers crossed, just like I think the rest of the medical community that if subsequent variants come along, that they won't be as contagious and hopefully as more people get vaccinated and or they develop natural immunity from the infection that if variants do come about, we're not going to see it as widespread as we're seeing it today."