It’s every parent’s worst nightmare. We asked pediatric infectious disease experts for advice and hand holding
Social distancing has stripped us of our caregiver network. It’s a necessary public health tactic to slow the fast and potentially deadly spread of Covid-19 (in viral form it’s known as the novel coronavirus or SARS-CoV-2).
But taking care of kids on your own is hard. It’s also scary when facing the spectre of grave illness.
What happens if one of you gets sick? What if both of you get sick? What if you get sick and are a single parent?
✜ Designate a Caregiver
First, let’s plan for the worst-case scenario. If both you and your partner are incapacitated at the same time, or need to be hospitalized at the same time, you need to designate a caregiver.
Unfortunately, if both you and your partner are sick, that means your children are also probably infected, which rules out Grandparents Care. See previous post on the same
Coronavirus disproportionately affects older individuals and risk of complications and mortality is highest in the elderly, so if feasible, it would be best to have the child stay with an aunt or uncle while the parents and child recover
✜ Before You Get Sick, Make a Crisis Plan:
✯ Who is going to take care of your kids?
✯ Identify nearby friends or family members who can help and are not in a high-risk population.
✯ Post potential caregiver contact information prominently so that emergency responders can find it.
✯ If you have no one to ask, a hospital can usually advise you on community resources for families in crisis.
If your designated caregivers have children, that’s OK too. The child may or may not develop it, but children typically don’t struggle with the disease much unless they have underlying conditions.
✜ Isolate, but Stay in Your Home
Now for the good news: “Unless a family member is at higher risk for contracting a severe case of Covid-19 or any viral illness due to age and/or existing health complications, then the same measures are recommended for Covid-19 as would be for influenza or another viral respiratory infection,” said Dr. Roshni Mathew, paediatric infectious disease specialist at Stanford Children’s Health and clinical assistant professor of paediatric infectious diseases at Stanford School of Medicine.
That means if your partner isn’t undergoing chemo or your children don’t have asthma, you can stay at home—just with an extra dose of hand-washing, keeping your dishes separate, and sleeping in a separate bedroom if possible.
Try to maintain these boundaries until your health care provider deems you to have a low risk of transmission, or around 14 days.
Another bonus? Infections within a family home are usually staggered, which can help, noted Dr. Mathew. Even if you do transmit the infection to your partner, it will come after yours has receded.
“The parent who is further along in the course of the illness could take on the primary caregiver role for the children to help minimize the chance of transmission,” said Dr. Mathew. “It’s important to remember that the risk of transmission is highest in the first few days of illness, when the symptoms are more pronounced.”
Not everyone has a second home if they get sick. But no matter how tempting, none of the experts we talked to recommended retreating to a hotel or an Airbnb.
Efforts are focused on social distancing and staying at home as much as possible.
Hotels and other venues like this are still considered public places and could significantly increase spread.
✜ Keep High-Traffic Areas Clean
There are plenty of smart ways to clean and disinfect your home. This virus is very easily cleaned by household cleaners. You don’t have to mix your own detergents or buy anything super strong.
If a separate bathroom isn’t possible, all the experts we consulted suggested to wipe down your bathroom every day, and especially after the sick person has used it—along with putting disinfectant in the toilet bowl, and wiping down high-touch surfaces like the faucet handles and toilet handles with disinfectant.
✜ Take Care of Yourself
The best way to prevent both parents from falling ill is to take care of themselves. Many of us are adjusting to new routines and new realities, of becoming full-time work-from-home employees as well as full-time caregivers.
Eating well, exercising, decreasing our stress, and getting enough sleep to keep ourselves healthy able to fight any diseases.