COVID-19 Q&A: Safety for Kids
Find questions and answers on keeping toys and common items safe from the virus, precautions to take when a family member goes into public and keeping children from spreading the virus.
Which precautions actually help protect you from COVID-19, and which are not making a difference?
The best way to prevent getting sick from the virus is to avoid being exposed to someone who has COVID-19. Precautions that actually help protect you include
- Wash your hands or using hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol if soap and water are not readily available
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands
- Avoid close contact
- Cover your mouth and nose with a mask when out in public
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily.
- Monitor your health. Be alert for symptoms. If you are having concerning symptoms, call your healthcare provider.
What precautions do we need to take if we go to the beach this summer?
It is important to maintain social distancing at the beach. Keep at least 6 feet away from people who are not part of your household. The virus is spread primarily through close contact with people who are infected. They may not show any symptoms.
Have a face covering available to put on at any moment when social distancing cannot be maintained. Don't forget to wash hands before eating.
How are parents supposed to manage neighborhood gatherings?
We know that kids are sociable, but currently, we should still make an effort to maintain social distancing. It is one of the best tools we have against the virus.
If a playdate is a must, outdoors are preferable. It is key to stress maintaining social distancing, wear face covering if distance cannot be maintained, not sharing foods or drinks, and staying home if sick. Offer individually packaged foods and drinks rather than shared items, and don't forget to use hand sanitizer first.
How do you keep younger kids to keep their mask on?
In general, masks are not recommended for children under 2 years of age. For older kids, you should help your kids get used to wearing masks. Allow your children to practice wearing their masks before they need to wear them outside of the home. Teach them how to put them on and take them off.
Encourage kids to decorate their mask or chose one on their own. It gives them a sense of ownership. A personal touch can help make it fun. You can introduce a sense of play. Kids can pretend to be a healthcare provider. You can also have their stuffed animals wear a mask as well.
How do we protect our children under 2 who cannot wear masks and wear gloves?
The best solution is to keep them at home most of the time, but we know that is not possible. Children under 2 should not wear a mask because they have smaller airways so breathing through a mask can be hard, and a mask increases the risk of suffocation.
To protect children under 2, limit exposure, and avoid unnecessary public contact. If going out is essential, cover the infant carrier with a light blanket, which helps protect the baby but still gives him or her the ability to breathe. Do not leave the blanket on the carrier in the car or at a time when a baby and carrier are not in direct view.
Keep hands clean. Clean frequently touched surfaces. Teach older children to avoid touching their faces. If a parent cannot leave the young child at home, keep the outing short and always follow social distancing rules.
If there are multiple kids in the household, how to avoid them giving the virus to each other?
It is extremely challenging to prevent spread with close contacts, which is why schools are closed and we are being asked for kids to keep their distance. Within a home, if there is an unused room, the infected individual could consider moving into that space, but we know this is not practical for most families.
Frequent hand-washing, avoiding sharing of food and kissing/hugging those who are ill are important first steps to avoid spread. We should also be teaching kids to sneeze and cough into a tissue or into their elbow and wash their hands right after to avoid spreading germs.
Answers provided by:
- Mutiat Onigbanjo, MD, assistant professor of pediatrics at University of Maryland School of Medicine and pediatrician at Pediatrics at Midtown
- James Campbell, MD, professor of pediatrics at University of Maryland School of Medicine and pediatric infectious disease expert
- Deborah Badawi, MD, assistant professor of pediatrics at University of Maryland School of Medicine and pediatric developmental and behavioral expert
- Rebecca Carter, MD, assistant professor of pediatrics at University of Maryland School of Medicine and pediatrician at Pediatrics at Midtown
- Margaret Pyle, MD, clinical assistant professor assistant professor of pediatrics at University of Maryland School of Medicine and pediatrician at Pediatrics at Midtown