Question: I had a beautiful baby girl five months ago and have two other children, ages 6 and 4. This virus has me worried. We’ve self-quarantined, but I cannot keep the two older ones indoors all day. They like to play outside so I let them outside in our yard only for one hour a day. My husband works and comes straight home after work. I make sure everyone washes their hands and take baths — and I tell the two older ones not to kiss their sister. They’re very loving and don’t understand this. Are there more things I should be doing to ensure the safety of my children – diet, exercise, sleep? — Latanya, of Lima
The specific advice for your family must be given by your primary care provider. We can only talk in general in this column. It is best to visit CDC website to learn how to prevent a COVID-19 infection.
For example, let us go over the basics of spread of the COVID-19 infection. Remember, the novel coronavirus can spread by inhaling the droplets that are carried in the breath of an infected person. The droplets may travel approximately 6 feet when an infected person talks, sneezes or coughs. This is the reason we are being told to wear a mask in public. The mask is supposed to prevent droplets from an infected person to spread in the air.
Virus can also spread if somebody touches the objects touched by an infected person. This is the reason we are being told not touch our face with our hands, wash our hands frequently and use hand sanitizer frequently. That’s the same reason we are told not to shake hands anymore.
There are many bacteria and viruses in the world, and this SARS CoV2 is another virus. It’s a virus with almost similar behavior as influenza and the only distinguishing feature is that it is new to the human immune system and hence, we don’t completely understand yet the behavior and outcomes when this novel virus interacts with the human immune system. Generally, the immune systems of the children who have been exposed to the virus deal with it fine — but that should not mean that we should not follow the hygiene techniques that are required to prevent transmission of infections.
When one goes out — including family members — they may be exposed to this virus or other infections, including influenza. Ideally one must take a shower as soon as they return from work. We just need to educate the kids about physical distancing, using teaching tools that will help them understand the need for good hand hygiene. Currently, the recommendation suggests physical distancing, but changes must be based on local public health recommendations. Hopefully, they will improve soon. Children have immune cells that may protect them better, and their anti-inflammatory response is better. Being patient with children along with continuous education appears to be the key.
Apart from good hygiene techniques, options to help reduce the risk of infection is by optimizing the immune system. We can improve our immune response by following a balanced diet. It is important to have adequate sleep, exercise daily and reduce stress. Multivitamin supplementation will help. Try to get good control of conditions of hypertension, diabetes, coronary artery disease and conditions where immunity is suppressed. The elderly have to take more precautions and should try harder to avoid catching the infection.
Ravi Kamepalli, MD, FIDSA, CWSP. Board Certified Infectious Disease, Wound Care and Obesity Medicine.