Social distancing, is a new term to most people. Generally, it means limiting a person’s interactions with other people in order to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Individual states are making different, and often changing, recommendations that can be confusing. What should social distancing look like if you have young children, regardless of where you live? Here are answers to a few common questions.
Can we leave the house with our children?
Yes. You do not have to remain indoors when socially distancing. However, carefully choosing where to go is important. Taking walks, going to open parks without common playground equipment, and staying away from groups is important. The idea is that we are trying to avoid shared surfaces, like swings, where many people have touched the same surface before us.
Can we allow grandparents or older relatives to visit?
Even if you are lucky enough to have older family members in excellent health, we recommend that you avoid in-person visits. We know that young children often have viruses, COVID-19 or others, that can easily pass between people. Keeping Grandma and her grandchildren separate, for now, ensures that she doesn’t become ill with anything. Instead, schedule daily video chats to stay connected. Ask relatives to read stories virtually, or have young children to sing to Grandma. Connection is important and one of the hardest parts about social distancing.
Can we run errands?
Yes. Essential errands, such as going to the grocery store, remain important. Go as infrequently as possible, and with as few people as possible. Wipe down grocery carts and wash your hands with sanitizer when entering and exiting the stores. Leave your phone in a place where you won’t be tempted to touch it while in the store, to avoid contamination. If possible, leave your children at home. Non-essential errands, like trips to the mall or large stores, are for another time.
How should we interact with our pediatrician?
Doctors are working hard to make sure they have safe office spaces should you need to take your child into be seen. Many are doing telehealth visits—where you use your phone to visually interact with the doctor. Many are allowing you to remain in your car until they are ready to see your child and then bringing you immediately into an exam room. Not every office is the same but, in general, doctors are reworking their procedures so that babies may continue to receive their routine immunizations on time. Follow your pediatric office on social media and check into their websites often to see how they are changing their process. Whenever possible, bring only the child who needs to be seen into the office.
Should we skip the pediatrician and go right to the emergency department if our child is ill?
No! Unless it is a medical emergency, call your doctor’s office first. They will often be able to keep you out of the emergency department, which decreases the entire family’s risk of getting sick with COVID-19 and other illnesses.
- You can practice social distancing even with young children.
- Don’t make unnecessary trips.
- Avoid playgrounds and places with shared surfaces.
- Check with your doctor to see how procedures have changed.