Back to school has taken on new meaning this year with even more worries for parents as school begins during the age of COVID-19. The school year looks a lot different across our region with some students taking virtual classes only and others a mix of in-person and online instruction.
According to James Liffrig, M.D., board-certified family medicine physician and medical director for FirstHealth Convenient Care, in any case, there are steps you can take to reduce the risks of COVID-19, help your child feel safe and comfortable, and stay informed during the pandemic.
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“First and foremost, it’s important to reinforce the everyday COVID-19 safety precautions with our children,” said Dr. Liffrig. “Those precautions include wearing a mask, social distancing and washing your hands often.”
Wear a Mask
Evidence shows that cloth face coverings or masks, when worn consistently, can decrease the spread of COVID-19, especially among people who are not yet showing symptoms of the virus. Wearing a mask helps contain any potentially infectious respiratory droplets that may be released while breathing, talking or coughing. “Most schools require students and staff to wear masks,” said Dr. Liffrig. “But it’s a healthy habit to incorporate outside of school as well. Cloth coverings play a very important part in controlling the spread of COVID-19.”
Social distancing, or physical distancing, means keeping a safe space between yourself and other people. “It’s important to talk to your children about the importance of social distancing and remind them not to share food, drinks or other items with their friends,” said Dr. Liffrig. “As hard as that can be for children, it’s just not safe to do.”
Wash Your Hands
Handwashing is key to staying healthy and preventing the spread of any virus. “Make sure to wash your hands regularly with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds,” adds Dr. Liffrig. “One way to ensure children are washing for 20 seconds is to remind them to sing the full ABCs while washing their hands.” If soap and water aren’t available, Dr. Liffrig said hand sanitizer is the next best option.
As parents, it’s important to know the safety precautions that are being taken at your child’s school and discuss the new procedures that are in place with your children. “This is not only a time of heightened anxiety for parents, but our children feel it too,” said Dr. Liffrig. “One way to lessen their anxiety is to talk to them about what to expect when they head back to school and why the new safety measures are so important.”
Finally, Dr. Liffrig encourages parents to make sure children receive annual wellness visits and vaccinations. “Regular check-ups with your child’s provider are more important than ever,” he said. “Provider offices have implemented extensive safety measures to keep you and your child safe during office visits, so there is no need to feel nervous about going to the doctor.”
Dr. Liffrig is the medical director for FirstHealth Convenient Care. FirstHealth has Convenient Care Clinics in Moore, Montgomery, Hoke, Richmond, Lee and Randolph counties. Convenient Care Clinics serve adults and children with non-emergency medical needs including such ailments as upper respiratory infection, strep, mild asthma, flu and urinary tract infection as well as minor injuries such as cuts, burns and broken bones that have not broken the skin.
Imaging services, immunizations and sports physicals are also among the services offered. Should the need arise for you or your family, FirstHealth Convenient Care also offers COVID-19 testing. Clinics are open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., seven days a week. FirstHealth's Convenient Care locations now offer patients the advantage of curbside visits. In some cases, patients may not have to leave their car at all to receive care.
For patients who need a more detailed evaluation inside a Convenient Care, FirstHealth is allowing patients to register, check-in and wait in their car. Another option is to call (833) 715- 2819 to arrange to have a visit over the phone.