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Keeping Your Kids Healthy During COVID & Flu Season

prepare your family and keep them healthy

Well, it’s October, and that means flu season is back. And the COVID pandemic is still here too. With both of these major illnesses lurking around, how can you keep your kiddos safe and healthy? Is this a good time to try out telehealth more than before?

We spoke to Dr. Anna Schroeder with Texas Health Aetna Anytime-MD about how to best keep your family well and ways to use telehealth to your ultimate advantage. 

With both the flu and COVID to worry about this fall and winter, should parents do anything differently than last year to keep kids healthy? Much like most of 2020, this winter presents some unique challenges. With both COVID and influenza circulating—plus the normal slew of winter viruses—doctors and parents will need to work closely together to help keep kids healthy. This year, more than any other, we need parents to vaccinate their children, and themselves, against the flu. Our goal is to minimize the impact of flu as much as possible, allowing us to focus on identifying and isolating our COVID-19 cases. 

It’s also important to keep sick kids—or kids who have been exposed to COVID—home from school and activities. While most parents don’t worry about sending their child to school with minor cold symptoms, this year we must keep them home. 

In children, COVID symptoms can be quite mild and appear similar to a cold. As a working parent myself, I recognize the huge burden this places on parents and communities, but if we work together we can keep our schools open and our community safe.

Also, [we should] work hard this winter to keep playdates and activities safe. Children should be outside as much as possible, and they should be masked if they’re interacting with other children indoors.

We’ve heard about some parents declining a flu vaccine for their kids this year. Do you have any thoughts on that? I always reiterate this during my Anytime-MD appointments and I can’t stress it enough: Not only is it critically important for children to get vaccinated, we need moms and dads (and aunts, uncles and friends) to be lining up for their shots as well. 

Slowing the spread of flu allows us to focus valuable resources on fighting COVID. We are counting on everyone to do their part and get the vaccine as soon as possible. You can get a flu vaccine through your primary care doctor, or they are available at low-to-no cost at your local CVS [or other pharmacy].

Outside of washing hands, not touching the face, wearing masks—what should parents focus on or do to keep their families healthy? I am asked this regularly during Anytime-MD appointments of all kinds—it’s a popular topic—and the best advice I can give is: Don’t forget the basics. Eating a healthy diet, getting plenty of exercise and an age-appropriate amount of sleep helps keep our immune systems strong.

You’ve been doing a lot of telehealth work this year. It sounds like the service will remain beneficial going forward. Having telehealth solutions available 24/7, 365 days a year like Texas Health Aetna’s Anytime-MD [will be] a game-changer this fall and winter. Telehealth helps avoid unnecessary trips to the doctor and potential exposures and help direct you to testing if or when it’s needed.

Whenever possible this season, managing illness from home will be extremely beneficial for both the child and the parent. [I recommend] having your telehealth app downloaded and set up in advance, so you’re ready to use it when the need strikes. We know decision-making in the time of COVID can be complicated, and we’re here to help with the most updated guidelines and treatment recommendations.

What’s the best way to get the most out of a telehealth visit? To get the most out of your telehealth visit, be ready with a list of questions about your child’s illness. Set a clear goal of what you want to accomplish during the visit, and don’t hesitate to let us know your goal. Also, as an emergency medicine doctor whose clinical work is often quite busy, my favorite part of an Anytime-MD visit is the unhurried nature of the visit. [Our platform] is text-based with the ability to do live video and allows for plenty of time for questions and discussion.

Image courtesy of iStock.