Emily Buckley, editor in chief
On an ordinary day prior to March 13, the waiting room at Treehouse Pediatrics in North Logan would be bustling with patients — children playing with the toy kitchen and train track, teens looking at their smartphones or watching a movie, and parents keeping a watchful eye as they all wait to be seen by their trusted physician. But for the nearly three months since COVID-19 made its first appearance in Cache Valley, the waiting room has sat silent. Instead patients have texted from the parking lot to let the office staff know they have arrived and then they’ve been escorted directly to their freshly sanitized exam rooms to avoid the potential spread of any infection. Once inside the exam room, things get back to normal — as physicians and nurses offer the same dedicated care they’ve been providing to Cache Valley families for over a decade.
“Our practice has definitely been affected by the coronavirus,” Ryan Bell, M.D., said. “We have made significant changes to minimize exposures for patients coming to the clinic.”
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, health officials have encouraged patients to keep their regular doctor visits, get vaccines on regular schedules, and seek prompt care and medical input for illnesses or other concerns.
“We are here to help in any way we can,” Dr. Bell said. “Like many things, it is difficult to predict the future and what changes will persist beyond the next few months, but we will continue to reevaluate how to keep our patients as safe and healthy as possible.”
COVID-19 has affected families around the world in unique ways, and the medical community continues to learn more about the virus as time goes on.
“Fortunately, the virus has consistently caused only mild symptoms in the pediatric population worldwide in almost all cases,” Dr. Bell said. “We have had very few positive cases in our valley’s pediatric population. Our major concern with kids and this virus is the fact that they can be carriers and spread it to other higher-risk populations, especially those with pre-existing medical conditions or advanced age.”
Additionally, pediatricians have concerns that their patients are being affected by the byproducts of the virus itself. “We have seen an increase in the number of our patients that are dealing with some degree of anxiety, depression, and feelings of loneliness and loss,” Dr. Bell said. “With restrictions slowly being lifted we are hopeful that this trend will reverse. Maintaining open communication with your children is the most important way to understand how each individual is handling the changes that have come over the last few months. If you are concerned about your child and their response to these changes, please don’t hesitate to visit with your pediatrician or with a licensed mental health professional, often some measure of counseling and open dialogue can be reassuring and give them the tools they need to manage the difficult situations that our kids have been asked to deal with.”
Not sure how to talk to your child about a pandemic? Here are some ideas from SafeKids.org:
FIND OUT WHAT YOUR CHILD ALREADY KNOWS.
- Ask questions geared to your child’s age level. For older kids, you might ask, “What are you hearing about coronavirus? What questions do you have?” For younger children, you could say, “Do you have questions about the new sickness that’s going around?” This gives you a chance to learn how much kids know — and to find out if they’re hearing the wrong information. Follow your child’s lead. Some kids may want to spend time talking, but if your kids don’t seem interested, that’s OK.
OFFER COMFORT AND HONESTY.
- Focus on helping your child feel safe but be truthful. Don’t offer more detail than your child is interested in.
- If your child asks about something and you don’t know the answer, say so. Use the question as a chance to find out together. Check the Centers for Disease Control website for up-to-date, reliable information about coronavirus.
- Speak calmly and reassuringly. Explain that most people who get sick feel like they have a cold or the flu. Kids pick up on it when parents worry, so speak in a calm voice and only share facts.
- Give kids space to share their fears. It’s natural for kids to worry, “Could I be next? Could that happen to me?” Let your child know that kids don’t seem to get as sick as adults. Let them know they can always come to you talk about what scares them.
- Know when they need guidance. Be aware of how your kids get news and information, especially older kids who go online. Point them to age-appropriate content so they don’t end up finding incorrect information.
HELP KIDS FEEL IN CONTROL.
- Give your child specific things to do to feel in control. Teach kids that getting lots of sleep and washing their hands well and often can help them stay healthy and help stop viruses from spreading to others.
- Talk about all the things that are happening to keep people safe and healthy. Kids might be reassured to know that hospitals and doctors are prepared to treat people who get sick and that scientists are working to develop a vaccine.
- Put news stories in context. If they ask, explain that death from the virus is still rare, despite what they might hear. Watch the news with your kids so you can filter what they hear.
- Kids and teens often worry more about family and friends. If kids hear that older people are more likely to be seriously ill, they might worry about their grandparents. Letting them call or video chat with older relatives can help them feel reassured about loved ones.
- Let your kids know that it’s normal to feel stressed at times. Everyone does. Recognizing these feelings can help children build resilience.
KEEP THE CONVERSATION GOING.
- Keep checking in with your child. Talking about coronavirus is a way to help kids learn about their bodies, like how the immune system fights disease.
- Talk about current events with your kids often.