Here’s What To Do If Your Child Is Exposed To COVID-19 At School

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As schools around the country reopen their doors and classes begin, tens of thousands of kids have been hospitalized with COVID-19.

The Delta variant has caused record high levels of hospitalization among American children and adults in what some health officials are calling the fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in the US. The nation marked a 12,156 hospitalization average at the end of last month, a significant increase than seen in June.

Some hotspot states have surpassed average cases and hospitalizations recorded during the winter, at the height of the pandemic. 

Health experts are sharing ways parents and caregivers can prepare in case their child is exposed at school and forced into quarantine.

Make Arrangements Now

Experts recommend getting a plan together with alternate caregivers, laying out expectations and needs. 

Contact information of each person who will potentially help take care of the child should be shared among the group. Additional phone numbers to share include the child’s doctor, local health departments, your doctor, and local hospitals and ambulance services, just in case. 

A primary caregiver to the child should be fully vaccinated. If anyone in the family 12 years and older isn’t vaccinated, make plans to get the shot. 

“Vaccination rate among kids 12 and older is really low,” CNN Medical Analyst Dr. Lena Wen said. “Vaccinating that group is an excellent way to protect younger children and vulnerable adults.”

Set Up a Quarantine Room And Stock It

Get a separate bedroom set up for the child to quarantine in, and, if possible, a separate bathroom as well. 

The room should include different forms of entertainment for the child –– books, TV, even games that can be played over FaceTime or video chat. 

Other supplies to include in the room: 

  • Thermometer to monitor fever (a temperature above 100 degrees) 
  • Fever-reducing medications
  • Faces Masks
  • Rubber Gloves
  • Regular soap 
  • Hand sanitizer 
  • Tissues
  • Cleaning Supplies (trash can liners, cleaning gloves, etc.) 
  • Disinfectants

School Pick-Up Logistics

You receive a call that your child may have been exposed to COVID-19, and have to go pick them up from school. Here’s what experts recommend: pick the child up alone, with the windows down. If you do have other kids with you, everyone aged 2 and older should have a mask on. 

If you can, ask school staff to bring the child out to the car. 

Once you get home, try to wait at least 24 hours before disinfecting your car “as that allows more time for the amount of virus in the air of your car to die off,” the CDC said.

Testing and Masking

Updated CDC protocols recommend that a person who is taking care of a child who’s been exposed get tested three days after the exposure –– even if you’re vaccinated.

You should also be wearing a mask in all public spaces, regardless of vaccination status.

A vaccinated child who’s been exposed should be tested three to five days after the exposure. A PCR test is recommended for more accurate results, though rapid tests after the three to five days can be helpful too.

Check School Protocols on Quarantine

The rules for how long a child is required to stay in quarantine depends on a lot of factors including their vaccination status. 

A fully vaccinated 12-year-old who was exposed to COVID-19 could technically ––based on current CDC guidelines –– return to school, as long as they wear a mask. However, school districts might have stricter guidelines on the length of quarantine and who must quarantine, so check with district officials about those guidelines. 

Unvaccinated children who have been exposed should quarantine for 10 days. The quarantine period can be shortened to seven days if the child received a negative test result five days after exposure, some health experts say.

Monitoring Symptoms

The CDC cautioned parents that kids might not show symptoms of the virus. Current data shows that as many as 50% of child COVID-19 cases can be asymptomatic, the CDC said. 

Children with preexisting conditions might be at increased risk of more severe illness. 

Symptoms to be on the lookout for include fever, fatigue, headache, muscle or stomach pain, poor appetite, sore throat, cough, nasal congestion, shortness of breath, diarrhea, vomiting. 

If a child or any other family member experiences increased or sudden difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, persistent chest pain or pressure, or any sign of oxygen deprivation, call 911 immediately.

For more information about COVID-19, vaccines, and caring for children exposed to the virus, please click here.

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