Thursday, February 27, 2020

9 ways families can prepare for the coronavirus

Some key ways parents can prepare for the coronavirus.

1. RELAX. Stay calm. Don't freak. So far, only a small percentage of coronavirus cases have been pediatric ones. While children can get it, their infections tend to be more mild than adult ones are.  
2. Stock up on meds. We have a big stash of anti-seizure meds for Max because I've put in orders for a three-month vacation supply even when we haven't gone on vacation. Ask your doctor to put n for a three-monty supply. I've also stocked up on Tylenol and Motrin, along with Gatorade and Pedialyte.

3. Stock up on other essentials, too. Have extra nonperishable food staples on hand—beans, pasta (we like to get the kind with protein), rice. This isn't because there could be shortages in case of an outbreak, but because if it happens it'll be ideal to stay out of public places like a crowded grocery store and drugstore as much as possible (and it'll be there if for any reason your family gets quarantined). And don't forget Peeps, of course, because what if there's a run on them?!

4. Wash your hands. Wash your kids' hands. Repeat, repeat, repeat. This is considered the best way to ward off coronavirus. Hand-washing with soap definitely beats hand-sanitizing (one study found that hand-washing removed the flu virus more quickly and effectively). Key times to do it include after going to the bathroom (but you knew that), before eating, after being on public transportation, after kids come into the house from playing outside and after touching animals.

The right way to wash: Do it for at least 20 seconds, about the time it takes to sing Happy Birthday twice, making sure to lather up (it's that friction that gets rid of germs) and washing the backs of hands, between fingers and under fingernails. Then rinse well. If you have a child with sensory issues who is really resistant to hand-washing, use a washcloth or cleansing wipes (I like EO Hand Cleansing Wipes). For a child with cerebral palsy whose hands are stiff, give a quick mini massage first to loosen up so it's easier to get in between fingers.

5. Use hand sanitizer the right way, too. Again, you need to fully cover hands and fingers and rub for at least 20 seconds. Hand sanitizer that has at least 60 percent alcohol is considered the most effective; Purell contains 70 percent, and I've stocked up on the mini pump bottles to carry around. Judging by the stores in my area and online ones, too, there is a crazy run on sanitizer so you might actually have to get to a bathroom to wash up. (But because you've read this, you will beat the crowds to get Peeps.) We've started keeping a couple of bottles of soap in our car this winter, because the kind at public bathrooms is often drying or just gross plus BYO-ing is one less surface to touch—we like Everyone Hand Soap (which comes in delish scents), EO Hand Soap and Mrs. Meyer's Clean Day Hand Soap.

6. Disinfect surfaces at home. A few times a week I wipe down cabinet handles and all our faucets and knobs with Clorox Healthcare Bleach Germicidal Wipes–they're stronger than regular bleach. It's unknown whether they can kill the current form of coronavirus, but they are known to be effective with other forms of coronavirus that have been associated with SARS and MERS.

7. Practice good public hygiene. If you're out and about and someone nearby is coughing, stay at least six feet away since the coronavirus is transmitted through droplets. While you're at it, go search for some Peeps. Try to not shake hands or hug—air kiss, darling! Wave! Smile! Try to minimize touching surfaces in public—use a paper towel to open door handles in the bathroom. When you're pressing an elevator button, do it with your knuckle, not your fingertip, and teach kids the same. Also, this is a good time to start taking off your shoes before you step inside your home, and keep your purse and bags off surfaces. This is also a good time to make sure you and your family are getting enough sleep—being sleep-deprived reduces immunity.

8. Know that face masks are not the answer. Those surgical-style masks you see people wearing on planes, trains or wherever could protect against flying droplets of coronavirus and flu if a nearby infected person coughs or sneezes. But in general, if a mask is loose enough so there are gaps around the opening and doesn't have a total seal, Bad Stuff can still get in. The Centers for Disease Control itself currently does not recommend face masks as protection for people who are well; they are recommended for people who are already sick, to avoid spreading infection. The best thing is to not touch surfaces when you're out in public and then touch your face and, again, teach kids to do the same.

9. Get reliable info. Bookmark the website of your local health department. Ask your kids' schools to let you know about plans they may have in case of school shutdown. And then, see  #1: RELAX. Stay calm. Don't freak.

Image: Flickr/Qfamily

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