The information presented below is not medical advice.
The best way to prevent illness is to prevent exposure. COVID-19 spreads through person-to-person contact. Carilion Clinic’s Infectious Disease experts strongly recommend that everyone:
Stay home whenever possible.
Avoid crowds and enclosed spaces if you must go out.
Wash your hands, keep your distance and wear a mask—every time.
This applies to individuals of every age, with or without underlying medical conditions.
Many schools have released their plans on how to return safely, which includes going back to school in person or a hybrid of in-person and virtual learning.
If your child will be attending classes in-person this year, it’s important to take the time to talk through the changes that the school year may bring. Help set expectations by addressing:
- New procedures for social distancing
- Possible temperature checks at the door
- Eating lunch at their desk
- Mask requirements
Teachers and school staff will need all the help they can get from parents and caregivers to prepare students on how to help slow the spread of the coronavirus.
Practice Proper Hand Hygiene
Teach your kids how to wash with soap and warm water for 20 seconds and remind them to avoid touching their face—especially their eyes, nose and mouths. Hands should be washed:
- Before eating lunch or snacks
- After using the restroom
- After blowing their nose, coughing or sneezing
- After touching high-traffic surfaces such as doorknobs and handrails
- Before and after handling their face covering
- As soon as they get home from school
If soap and water are not available, use hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Let your kids practice covering all surfaces of their hand and rubbing them together until hands feel dry.
Wear a Mask
Cloth face coverings should be worn at school, both indoors and outdoors, when social distancing is not possible. This includes while riding the school bus and walking through the hallways.
Practice wearing a mask at home and teach your child how to put it on and take it off. Don't be discouraged if the first mask you try doesn't work—different styles work for different people. Let them be a part of the process of picking out their favorite colors or prints to make it more fun. Finding something that fits snug over their nose and mouth is key.
Stay up to Date on Vaccines
Vaccines help build antibodies so that they are prepared to fight diseases. Though keeping your child’s immune system up is always a priority, it may be more important this school year with the unknown effects of how COVID-19 and other illness can interact with each other. Speak with your child’s health care provider about which immunizations they recommend, and remember to get the flu vaccine when it becomes available in the fall.
We all play an important role in keeping our families, friends, teachers, school staff and community safe. Talking to your kids about the importance of their role and taking the time to listen to their worries and answer questions will help them feel better prepared for the school year.
This article was reviewed by Paul R. Skolnik, M.D., chair of Carilion Clinic’s Department of Medicine.