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5 Questions To Ask Your Pediatrician Before Kids Go Back To School In-Person This Fall

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Parents are being forced to make an almost unprecedentedly difficult decision right now — whether or not to send their children to school in the middle of a pandemic. Making this choice even more difficult is the fact that parents have very little guidance in the matter, with official messages changing on an almost daily basis. But you can still turn to professionals like your doctor to help you figure things out. So what questions should you ask your pediatrician before sending your kids back to school this fall? After all, this is completely uncharted territory. It's tough to know where to even start.

“There are so many factors and unknowns still with school plans. This is a big topic,” pediatrician Dr. Alison Mitzner tells Romper. While recent CDC guidelines emphasize the importance of reopening schools this fall, another set of guidelines issued for K-12 school administrators was more cautious in tone. Noting that computer simulations from Europe "have suggested the school reopenings may further increase transmission risk in communities where transmission is already high," the guidelines stated the importance of considering "community transmission risk" as schools reopen.

Ultimately, you might choose to homeschool or opt for virtual learning this fall. Your child's school might not even open (which makes the choice easy), or someone in your household is might be high-risk, or maybe you just don't feel comfortable with the idea. If you’re still on the fence, or even if you've decided to go ahead with in-person learning, read on for five questions you can ask your pediatrician before sending your little one back to school.

1. What Do I Do If The School Has A Confirmed Case Of Coronavirus?

This is a question you'll want to ask your child's school directly, but it can also be helpful to check in with your pediatrician on this one. "[Parents] will need to know the school's plans, the cohort at the school that was exposed, if your child was exposed, and if your child will need to be quarantined," Dr. Mitzner tells Romper. Due to HIPAA regulations, the school may not be able to share the identity of the person within the school community was exposed to coronavirus, (per the U.S. Department Of Health & Human Services), though that individual may choose to come forward. Your pediatrician can help you make a plan of action for what to do if someone is exposed. Rest assured that if there’s a confirmed case in your school community, "it will be reported to the local public health department, who will guide you as to next steps," pediatrician Dr. Whitney Casares tells Romper.

2. What Symptoms Do I Need To Look Out For?

You likely already know to look out for a fever, but you might want to ask your pediatrician about any other symptoms. "Cough, fever, and shortness of breath are especially common COVID-19 symptoms, though the virus can present in a variety of ways," Dr. Casares tells Romper. Other symptoms of coronavirus in children may include dizziness, nausea, chills, sore throat, or loss of smell and taste. If you know exactly what these symptoms look like (for example, you may be able to tell your kiddo is having trouble breathing if you see their nostrils flaring or their muscles pulling between the ribs, per Kids Health), you'll be able to spot the virus earlier which can help prevent its spread.

3. Is There Anything Special I Should Pack For My Child?

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Your child's pediatrician will have a good idea of what your kid needs to be their safest. They might be able to provide recommendations for the gentlest hand sanitizers for kids or what hand sanitizers to avoid, as well as the best face masks for kids (aka the ones they're most likely to keep on all day) and how you can talk to your child about the importance of mask-wearing and why it's a must.

4. What Do I Do If My Child Has A Cold But I’m Not Sure If It's Coronavirus?

I've heard several parents mention that their child hasn't been sick at all since schools closed down in March. It's very likely that once your kid returns to school, they'll end up coming down with a cold or another illness that's not the coronavirus. "A parent should keep a child home if they are ill, whether ill with a fever or COVID symptoms," Dr. Mitzner tells Romper. It's best to exercise caution and keep your child home at any sign of illness, even if you suspect your kiddo just has allergies or a stuffy nose. When it comes to coronavirus, as Dr. Mitzner points out, "some present with mild symptoms, or cold symptoms, some [show] flu symptoms, while others can get very sick and have more severe presentations," so it's better to be cautious.

5.Is there Anything I Can Do At Home To Keep Our Family Safer?

Whether it's taking your child's temperature before school every morning, stockpiling masks so you always have a clean one on hand, or washing their backpack and lunchbox whenever you can, your pediatrician will have a good idea about what actually helps prevent the spread of COVID-19 and what will ultimately just be extra work for you.

If you think you’re showing symptoms of coronavirus, which include fever, shortness of breath, and cough, call your doctor before going to get tested. If you’re anxious about the virus’s spread in your community, visit the CDC for up-to-date information and resources, or seek out mental health support. You can find all of Romper’s parents + coronavirus coverage here.

Experts:

Dr. Whitney Casares, M.D., M.P.H., F.A.A.P., author of The New Baby Blueprint: Caring for You and Your Little One

Dr. Alison Mitzner, M.D., pediatrician