Guest Blogger: Sandra Withers
As we face a worldwide pandemic and a new disease that we are still learning about, we may feel overwhelmed and uncertain. How do we keep the children safe? What if I get sick myself? What should I be doing? Did I forget something?
At times like this, it’s important to remember how much we already know. We’ve been protecting children while they learn for years. We can use the experience and knowledge we have, and add new instructions to our routines at the same time. Here are two rules that are not new, but are critical in caring for children during the pandemic.
1. Keep Your Hands Clean. And Don’t Touch Your Face!
To make us sick, the virus must be carried from an infected person to us, normally through our nose, eyes, or mouth. The most common way this happens is from the infected person’s cough into the air. We may then breathe the virus into our lungs. This is why we wear masks – to catch any particles when we cough or sneeze, to protect others. We might also pick up the virus by touching a surface and then touching our face. When we are unable to keep physical distance from each other, we need to keep our hands clean and away from our face at all times.
Do you REALLY wash for a full 20 seconds? It seems to take forever to wash all the children’s hands – are you taking shortcuts? Do you treat gloves as if they are your magic shield? Gloves can give a false sense of security, and can spread infection if not used properly. Notice what you touch with gloves on. They must be changed and hands washed between uses.
When we skip a single cleaning of hands that have the virus on them and then touch our face, we have undone the benefit of all of the other things that we have done all day to protect ourselves and others. The simplest things can be the hardest: Wash Your Hands!
2. Don’t Stop Doing What You Know to Do
Follow your routine health and safety actions. Injuries occur more often when parents, teachers, and caregivers are tired or distracted. Keep the cleaning supplies that you are using so often out of reach and actively supervise the children at all times. Remove toys and materials that can’t be sanitized. This is a trying time for everyone – be alert to signs of stress or even trauma in the children and their families. Be ready to make the appropriate referrals if needed.
And last but not least, pediatricians are alarmed that many children have gotten behind on their immunizations during this pandemic. Don’t let down your guard. Having an outbreak of pertussis (whooping cough), measles, or other preventable disease during the pandemic could be devastating for children. Check all records and get the children (and staff) up to date now. In the fall, influenza vaccine will be recommended for all, to lessen the strain on our health care systems.
These are all actions that we have taken as long as we have cared for young children. We must be vigilant, be diligent, keep calm and carry on. Together, we can do it!
Sandra Withers, APRN, Child Care Nurse Consultant
UAMS / Healthy Child Care Arkansas 501-526-8737, firstname.lastname@example.org