Healthcare Checklist for Back to School
Every August as summer comes to a close, parents hit up the back-to-school sales for fresh supplies for a new school year. While this year certainly looks different, thousands of children are gearing up and headed back to the classroom. In addition to the usual back-to-school health checklist this year calls for new steps, as well.
Because of the challenges COVID-19 brings to this particular school year, we talked with Cameron Medical Group’s pediatric nurse practitioner, Lindsay Ellert, to get her recommendations for a healthy checklist for back-to-school 2020.
1. Stress the Big Three: Masks, Distancing, Hand Washing
With mandates from the State of Indiana and recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics among others, this year’s classrooms will look very different for students. Desks will be situated away from one another, there won’t be large group activities and everyone will be wearing masks. Lindsay Ellert, PNP recommends talking to your children about these changes.
She believes masks will be a big topic of conversation with kids before school. Check with your school for specific mask recommendations for ages and grades. Then decide if you’re going to go with daily disposable masks or send your child with a clean cloth mask each day. For cloth masks, some families may choose to have separate clean mask and dirty mask bags at home. After school, kids can put their dirty masks in the dirty bag for cleaning and grab a clean one for the next day. Some parents may also want to consider sending a backup mask in case one gets soiled throughout the day. Lindsay stresses the importance of talking to your kids about leaving their masks on and trying not to touch them throughout the day. She also says to remind them to keep their hands away from their friends’ masks and faces. Children also need to be reminded to always cover their coughs and sneezes.
Aside from masks, she says the best way to keep kids safe at school is to continue to encourage and monitor hand-washing techniques – at home and school. “When kids come home from school, they should remove their shoes at the door, then wash their hands right away. It seems so simple, but proper and thorough hand-washing is a real deterrent to stopping the spread of viruses.” Here’s a fun song you can tap your feet to while washing your hands.
2. Monitor Symptoms
When asked about monitoring kids’ symptoms before sending them to school, Lindsay suggested following CDC guidelines. However, she also cautioned against going overboard. “You should be tuned-in to how they are feeling, but you don’t have to run them through a medical exam every day,” she says. She recommends asking about headaches or looking for symptoms such as a cough or sore throat.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, these are the most common symptoms parents should be keeping an eye out for in children:
- Fever or chills
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Muscle or body aches
- New loss of taste or smell
- Sore throat
- Congestion or runny nose
- Nausea or vomiting
It’s also vital to keep your children as healthy as possible. Focus on balanced meals and snacks. Encourage them to play outdoor and get plenty of exercise and rest.
3. Keep Children Home If They Don’t Feel Well
If your child does have any of the symptoms listed above, Lindsay says the most important thing to do is keep children home. She explains, “If your child does have COVID-19 symptoms, keep your children away from school and at home. This means they may have to miss activities they usually enjoy, such as birthday parties, playdates or sports.” This is what will keep the virus from spreading further. “If one (or more) family member has symptoms, the entire family should limit activities outside of the home for a period of time, as well.”
Lindsay also wants parents to know they don’t have to rush children to the hospital for minor symptoms. She explains, “The symptoms of the virus are similar to many other viruses, so if your child shows symptoms, it doesn’t always mean they have COVID-19. In most instances, the best plan of action is isolating at home. Before taking any actions, call your pediatrician to discuss the next steps.”
4. Follow School Guidelines
One thing that everyone seems to agree on is that schools across the country are doing everything they can to make schools as safe as possible for students, teachers and staff. State and local organizations are working together to create guidelines for parents to follow. That is exactly what Lindsay Ellert suggests you do – follow your individual school’s guidelines. “As parents, we trust schools to keep our children safe and this is true during the pandemic, as well,” she says.
5. Stay Positive!
Pediatric Nurse Practitioner, Lindsay says this step is actually one of the most important on the entire list. She recommends that parents need to be positive about their decision to send their kids back to school. “Kids look to us for guidance and they hear more than we realize,” she explains. “We want children to be excited about going back to school, not frightened.”
Lindsay Ellert is a board-certified pediatric nurse practitioner at Cameron Pediatrics. She’s been a pediatric nurse for 15 years and a nurse practitioner for nearly 10 years. A mother of four, she says she and her family are looking forward to the new school year that’s just around the corner.
Reviewed by: Lindsay Ellert, NP, Cameron Pediatrics
Lindsay Ellert, PNP, is a board-certified pediatric nurse practitioner. She is now accepting new patients. To make an appointment, call Cameron Pediatrics at 260-667-5690 or schedule an appointment online.