Should I Babysit My Grandkids Amid Coronavirus Outbreak?

March 19, 2020

Clinical Contributors to this Story

Manisha Santosh Parulekar, M.D. contributes to topics such as Sleep Disorders, Dementia.

Many schools across the country have shut down in the fight against coronavirus. For many parents who still need to work, a grandmother or grandfather nearby might make a good backup childcare option. But, is that safe?

While we have much to still understand about COVID-19, the CDC says many young children with confirmed cases have generally presented with mild or no symptoms. This could make it difficult to know if your child is spreading the illness.

“Grandparents represent some of the most vulnerable populations to COVID-19 and should carefully consider their individual health before agreeing to look after young children,” says Manisha Parulekar, M.D., the chief of Geriatrics at Hackensack University Medical Center.

Things to Consider

“Anyone over 65 and those with serious health conditions should absolutely avoid watching young children right now, cautions Dr. Parulekar.” Those serious health conditions include:

  • Chronic kidney disease
  • COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)
  • Obesity (BMI of 30 or higher)
  • Immunocompromised state (weakened immune system) from solid organ transplant
  • Serious heart conditions, such as heart failure, coronary artery disease, or cardiomyopathies
  • Sickle cell disease
  • Type 2 diabetes

Grandparents should also avoid young children if there have been widespread cases of COVID-19 in their town or the town where their grandkids live.

“If you are at higher risk for serious illness from COVID-19 because of your age or because you have a serious long-term health problem, it is so important for you to take actions to reduce your risk of getting sick with this difficult disease,” says Dr. Parulekar.

How to Stay Safe While Babysitting

If you are an adult and would like to help watch your grandkids, here are a few tips to help stay safe:

  • Be sure to only look after immediate family who are showing no symptoms of illness.
  • Take basic precautions like washing hands frequently and keeping distance as much as possible.
  • Be extra careful and use gloves when changing a diaper or helping a young one go to the bathroom. The CDC says that COVID-19 has been detected in the feces of some patients.
  • Clean frequently touched surfaces like tablets, toys, cellphones and play mats.
  • Wear a cloth face covering when unable to maintain social distancing while in public.

“While there is no vaccine for COVID-19, this is also a good time to check with parents to ensure that any young children you watch have all of their regular vaccines,” suggests Dr. Parulekar. “You don’t want to contract any other illnesses that could put your health at risk right now.”

Next Steps & Resources:

The material provided through HealthU is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.