What Parents Need to Know about COVID-19: Advice from a Pediatrician

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With schools closed for the rest of the school year, and sports, activities, and playdates canceled, children and teens are dealing with a great deal of disruption. In this podcast, Paducah pediatrician Jeffrey Mudd, MD, takes questions from a parent regarding some of the concerns she has about caring for her own kids right now. Dr. Mudd discusses ways to help children stay healthy both mentally and physically while stay-at-home orders are in place, weighing in on well-child visits and appropriate “screen time.” In addition, he offers tips on recognizing stress and helping children with the transition back to “normal” life.

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Speaker 1:
Welcome to HealthTalks NOW, bringing you the facts you need to keep you and your family well. We’re happy you’re tuning in today. Baptist Health is committed to providing compassionate, high quality care that is centered on you. Listen to all of our podcasts to hear from Baptist Health physicians about the latest medical advancements in treatments, and get trusted information on timely health topics from our healthcare professionals. Whether you want to learn more about a specific condition or procedure or find tips for living a healthy lifestyle, Baptist Health is here to help you become a healthier you.

Host:
We’re joined on the phone today with a special guest, pediatrician Dr. Jeffrey Mudd of Baptist Health Medical Group, Pediatrics. Also on the line is colleague and friend Kendra Barnes, for a conversation about how Covid-19 impacts children. Thanks for joining us today, Dr. Mudd.

Dr. Jeffrey Mudd:
Karen, thank you very much. I’m glad to be here with you ladies.

Host:
Regardless of how long this pandemic extends, the news that many Kentucky children will not return to school until the fall makes this conversation today important and timely. We’re coming up now on two months of adjustments. How do we keep kids healthy as we continue during these times?

Dr. Jeffrey Mudd:
It’s very important, I think, for children to try and stay on a regular schedule that they would have been on at this time anyway. They should try to do their schoolwork as assigned and in a timely fashion. They should try to eat healthy snacks and not drink too much soda or junk food. They should limit screen time as possible. And they should really try to balance their work with playtime, that’s needed for all children, as best they can, while still maintaining social distancing and all the other practices we’re going through now.

Host:
Okay. So it’s important to maintain a schedule and set some guidelines for them?

Dr. Jeffrey Mudd:
Correct.

Host:
So I’m a parent of two small children myself, Dr. Mudd, and your comment on screen time has me wondering. I think it’s a common question and concern among a lot of parents about screen time guidelines and what those recommendations look like, maybe by age. What’s healthy for our kids right now?

Dr. Jeffrey Mudd:
It always amazes me. I’ll be doing a checkup on like a six month old baby and the baby will start to cry, and mom automatically pulls out the cell phone and has a cartoon on there to try to calm down the child.

Host:
Right.

Dr. Jeffrey Mudd:
As of now, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, for children younger than 18 months, other than with video chatting, screen time really shouldn’t be done.

Host:
Okay.

Dr. Jeffrey Mudd:
It can be slowly introduced in after this age up until two, but after two, really screen time should be limited to less than an hour a day.

Host:
Okay.

Host:
Right.

Dr. Jeffrey Mudd:
And then it should be … a lot of times the parents can view with the child in a learning atmosphere.

Host:
Yeah, you bring up a good point. I think screen time sometimes gets a bad rap, that it’s just YouTube videos and things of that nature. But there are a lot of learning apps that will promote the development that kids are missing out on in the classroom right now. And we see a lot of schools utilizing screen time via Zoom and Google Classroom and other things like that to stay connected. So are you seeing that with your patients now, that kids are really benefiting from screen time using it in a productive way?

Dr. Jeffrey Mudd:
Right. They can. Again, a lot of video classroom time is done. And again, the parents can find activities through media and screen time that they can do with the child to have them have a healthy body and mind. Likewise though, they should designate, I think, media free zones. It’s the old, let’s all eat supper together at the table without our phone, kind of theory.

Host:
Sure.

Host:
I think one possible concern for parents right now as many of us are juggling the working from home culture along with homeschooling our children, are the pressures of keeping up with our kids’ cognitive development as they remain out of the classroom right now. I think many parents, including myself, are wondering, is my child going to be behind next year when they return to their normal schedule? What are your thoughts on that?

Dr. Jeffrey Mudd:
That’s something that I’ve been worried about also. And no one really knows, because none of us have ever lived through anything like this. But children are being taught on screen time or with homework packets and so on, as best they can by their parents. But hopefully everyone will be back at the school in the fall, and what’s going to happen? Are they going to have reached those developmental and intellectual milestones and just the knowledge base they need to move on to the next grade?

Host:
Sure. Dr. Mudd, are we seeing an increase in stress in kids trying to manage online work and the situation involving Covid? Will you talk about kids’ mental health and what to look for to know if there’s a concern?

Dr. Jeffrey Mudd:
Right. I mean, lots of kids have fears, and in the worst case, anxieties and phobias at this age. It’s important, I think, for those to be realized by the parents and to be addressed. Lots of children have separation anxiety and then they’re going to be with the parents even more of these few months. When it’s time for school is that going to be worse?

Dr. Jeffrey Mudd:
Ideas that parents can do is to talk about the child’s anxieties and be sympathetic about them. Explain that many kids have fears, but do what they can to support the child to put that behind them. A parent should not belittle the child’s fears and especially in front of other children.

Host:
That’s a good tip. Have you noticed parents expressing concerns regarding either obsessive thoughts or sleep disruption? Are those signs that someone should be on the lookout for?

Dr. Jeffrey Mudd:
We had a parent call in today about trouble with their child’s sleeping and wanting advice for it.

Host:
Okay.

Dr. Jeffrey Mudd:
So yes, it is happening. And I mean, again, children don’t know what Covid-19 is, depending on their age and intellectual ability. So it is a scary time for all of us.

Host:
Along those lines, how do we manage disappointment in kids when they’re missing out on things that they were looking forward to, such as graduation, sports, play time with other children or prom?

Dr. Jeffrey Mudd:
This, again, is a major worry I think that I have. My children are all in their 20s, but the high school they’d gone to have all … it’s a small private school, but they’ve all come by to their seniors’ yard and have a sign in the yard congratulating them and how proud they are of them. And then the same high school is planning on having prom … graduation, rather, in July.

Dr. Jeffrey Mudd:
I know a lot of schools are having virtual proms or graduation ceremonies. So I think everybody is recognizing these, since we all remember when we were high schoolers, and trying to make the best of it they can with these kids.

Host:
So there are special ways to acknowledge these milestones and some ways to adapt to make the child still feel that you’re recognizing …

Dr. Jeffrey Mudd:
Right. Like everything else we’re doing now, we have to adapt to try to make the best we can out of it.

Host:
Okay.

Host:
People are wary, I think understandably so, about coming in for care right now, but we know that there are some things that can’t and really shouldn’t wait. So can you speak to the safety of coming into the office right now, and what other options parents might have to get care that their kids need?

Dr. Jeffrey Mudd:
So for my practice, I’m somewhat lucky during the coronavirus pandemic, in that children aren’t affected as much as adults are. That’s really not known why, but most kids have done fine who’ve had it, and very few children get the illness. However, here at Baptist Health Paducah, as they come into our building, they are screened by nurses. Their temperature is taken to make sure … neither the parents nor the child have the classic symptoms, fever, cough, sore throat, so on. That all adults and kids who are big enough are wearing masks now also. We wear masks in the office.

Host:
Sure. So there are precautions in place then to make parents feel comfortable in being able to be their children in?

Dr. Jeffrey Mudd:
Yes. Yes.

Host:
With the statewide delay of elective procedures, there seems to be a perception that only emergent care is available right now, but that’s just not the case. Can you speak to us about well child visits? We know that those serve as a valuable time of health and developmental information and a connection from parent to provider. Should parents plan to keep their child on track with these visits as normal?

Dr. Jeffrey Mudd:
Yes, they should. And that’s one thing I was so pleased about is right as this pandemic started, the American Academy of Pediatrics, our governing board, came out with a statement saying that children should stay on time for their regularly scheduled immunizations. The worry would be that if we delayed immunizations, we’d have an epidemic of whooping cough or measles. We’ve seen measles outbreaks just a year or two ago in different spots in the country, and that would be a problem that we’d have to dig out of also.

Dr. Jeffrey Mudd:
So again, especially for the younger babies, I know it’s scary for a new, young parent to bring their child to the hospital who’s two months old with all this other going on. But I would have a much bigger worry about that child missing their immunizations and getting behind and potentially catching one of those deadly illnesses.

Host:
Makes sense. Outside of well child visits, and obviously, emergencies, what are some other services or concerns that a parent should not delay seeking care for their kids right now?

Dr. Jeffrey Mudd:
I worry about chronic kids. Kids who have ongoing illnesses, diabetes, seizures. Even, we have plenty of children with ADHD. Really, I think they just need to keep in contact with their provider on how they’re doing. One aspect that Baptist Health has started doing is tele-health visits. You see it on the news all the time with many hospital organizations doing this, and we can do this even for children.

Dr. Jeffrey Mudd:
I do three or four at least every day. Some of them are chronic kids, some of them are acute illnesses, but the tele-health situation now has given us the opportunity to touch base with the parents, to talk with the children if they’re old enough and just to make sure that everything’s going okay and keep them out of the office if impossible.

Host:
We’ll be linking to the My Chart information in the show notes so parents can get this information. Well finally, we’d like to get some tips on transitioning back to normal life. Readjusting routine and schedules and preparing them for school this fall. What can you tell our listeners?

Dr. Jeffrey Mudd:
Every year during the summer, I tell parents, a few weeks before school starts, they need to try to get their child back on their regular schedule. If they get up at six o’clock for school, they might not have to get up that early, but don’t let them sleep until 10. Kind of get them back in their usual bedtime routine. Try and get them just back in their usual routine as best they can. But again, I think that’s even more important this year with such a big disruption that we’ve all experienced.

Host:
Okay.

Host:
To that end, I know a lot of parents going back to school are trying to get their kids school physicals and sports physicals. Are those things that are still going to be offered from your office as you approach back to school season?

Dr. Jeffrey Mudd:
Yes, they will. Again, we’ve pretty much eliminated all physicals as of right now and since this all started except for the ones requiring vaccines. Now that there is a little talk of maybe starting to loosen things up, we were coming up with a list of which patient should be next. And the ones with school and sports physicals were at the top of the list.

Host:
Great. That’s great to know for parents. Thank you Dr. Mudd.

Dr. Jeffrey Mudd:
You’re welcome. Thank you. Bye bye.

Host:
Bye bye.

Host:
Bye bye.

Speaker 1:
Thanks for tuning in to HealthTalks NOW. Staying healthy is a lifelong commitment and Baptist Health can provide the support you need to lower your risks, improve your quality of life, and protect your longterm health. Visit baptisthealth.com to hear our other podcasts, learn about our services and find more tips to help you stay a step ahead of your health. Baptist Health, be a healthier you.

Speaker 1:
This podcast is for informational purposes only and should not be relied upon as medical advice. The content in this podcast is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This podcast is not designed to replace a physician’s medical assessment and medical judgment. Always seek the advice of your physician with any questions or concerns you may have related to your personal health or regarding specific medical conditions. To find a Baptist health provider, please visit baptisthealth.com.

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