Back to School Bugs and coronavirus: advice from a local doctor
After nearly 6 long months our little ones are back in school. It’s a worrying time isn’t it?
Children mixing with large bubbles, increasing coronavirus cases and winter approaching. For me, it’s important my kids are back at school, they need the routine and social interaction but it doesn’t stop me feeling a little anxious. I generally do drop off and pick up twice a week, I am just getting used to the new socially distanced staggered arrangements but already really miss being able to chat to other parents in the playground.
As you may all be aware, Covid-19 cases are on the rise again, so we all need to do what we can to reduce transmission rates and keep our communities protected. Fortunately Covid-19 doesn’t appear to cause young children serious health problems or long term complications in the main. Various viral illnesses often make their way around classrooms and schools over winter and this year we have the added confusion of Covid-19 causing an array of symptoms in children.
It is inevitable my kids will get poorly some time over the winter and I am dreading the need to self-isolate due to the impact on my work as GP. Our practice has prepared for this and fortunately I will be able to work remotely doing telephone/video calls at home if needed.
That call will come one day…
I see my phone ringing…it’s school…my heart sinks.
“Hi Mrs Brooks, your child has a temperature please can you come and collect her”….
“Errrr yes of course, oh dear, is she ok? Let me call my husband and we’ll get both kids and go home”…
I let work know, we hurriedly try to rearrange my afternoon clinic, apologising to patients that we may have to rebook them or there may be a delay for their prebooked phone appointment…
I desperately try to arrange a swab for my daughter (hopefully the demand/capacity issues will be resolved by then) and we self isolate at home waiting for that negative swab result. I fire up the laptop and try to work from home as best I can.
So a question I get asked a lot is:
‘how can you tell it’s coronavirus, it’s probably just a cold?’
While a cough with a temperature in a child is much more likely to be a common viral upper respiratory tract infection, this year there is a chance it is Covid-19 and should be treated as much until proven otherwise.
So what to do?
Pleasearrange a Covid-19 swab if you or your child has ANY of the following:
a new persistent cough
a high temperature
a change in smell OR taste
The easiest way is to do this is to visit https://www.gov.uk/get-coronavirus-test where you can arrange a slot at a local test centre or choose a postal home test kit. Your child and the household should self isolate until a negative swab result. If the result is positive, the person with the virus needs to self isolate for 10 days and the household for 14 days in total.
What else can we all do to help reduce the chance of spread of this virus that has caused us all so much disruption and for some, heartache and loss?
Ensure your child can wash their hands well; ideally for a good 20 seconds (this video is really good at explaining the process: https://www.bbc.co.uk/newsround/51698180). Some schools are allowing children to bring a small bottle of hand sanitiser so this is also an option.
Socially distance at 2m where you can, if this is not possible, then use the “1m +” rule and use a face covering
Meet up with friends outside rather than inside. The new #ruleofsix means that all indoor/outdoor group meet-ups cannot exceed 6 members. I’m going to miss those normal play date and family meet ups over the next few weeks, especially with birthdays and the festive period around the corner, but it’s important we all limit our social interaction to reduce the risk of spreading the virus
Although a flu jab will not reduce Covid-19 transmission, it will reduce rates of seasonal influenza a.k.a flu, which in turn will reduce the confusion around ‘what is causing my new cough?’. I would strongly encourage you to take up the option of a nasal (or injectable if appropriate) flu vaccination for your children this year. The eligibility criteria have widened which makes 2020 flu campaign the biggest ever.
Finally, it has been such a challenging time for everyone, and here in general practice we have been working so hard to provide healthcare in a variety of forms throughout the pandemic. We have never been closed, our doors may be locked but this is to reduce unnecessary visits and footfall through our waiting rooms. Your practice is there for you, if you have a new symptom that you have been worrying about or putting off then please do get in touch.
I know it can be difficult getting an appointment (I am a patient too!) due to frustrating phone lines or the “sorry we’re full” reply, but keep trying and if you can, find out when your practice release their appointments so you can call at the best time. To avoid the phone queue altogether, I would also highly recommend signing up for your practice online account or downloading the NHS app.
All practices are currently encouraged to offer a triage first approach, this means your initial appointment might be via an online consultation tool, telephone or video call rather than in person. It is unlikely that practices across the country will open back up to patients being able to book directly in to a face to face appointment over the next few months as we have to ensure the safety of our staff and patients and keep numbers in our surgeries to a minimum. However, if you need a face to face appointment as your problem cannot be diagnosed over the phone or video, one should be arranged for you.
Stay safe everyone, here’s hoping 2021 is a better year for all.