August 16, 2021
As parents gear up for another school year, COVID-19 is still a dominant issue for many. Will in-person learning be safe? What should I do to protect my family?
“We know schools are more than just a place for kids to learn. School also supports kids’ physical, social and emotional health,” says Valerie Niketakis-Wujciak, M.D. “At the same time, COVID-19 is still top of mind for many parents. Fortunately, there are steps we can take as parents to make sure our kids are learning in the classroom safely this year.”
For starters, parents can review the guidelines the Centers for Disease and Control Prevention (CDC) issued in July 2021 for preventing the spread of COVID-19 in Kindergarten through 12th grade classrooms. Here are additional steps you can take prior to the start of the school year to help keep your child safe.
Get a Physical
During the pandemic, many families put off well visits and physicals, including annual visits to the pediatrician. If your child has fallen behind on a regular well check, now is the time to schedule, especially before the school year begins.
“Children, preteens and teens all need regular checkups with their doctor, who can identify any health concerns early on,” says Dr. Niketakis-Wujciak. “During these annual visits, your doctor can make sure your child’s development is on track, talk about nutrition and exercise needs, and check on your child’s emotional well-being.”
Stay Up-to-Date on Vaccines
Similarly, rates of routine vaccination among children and teens dropped significantly in 2020, and even after stay-at-home orders were lifted, according to a CDC report from June 2021. “It’s incredibly concerning that so many kids have missed important routine vaccines, including vaccines for some potentially deadly diseases,” says Dr. Niketakis-Wujciak. “If your child or teen has missed a scheduled vaccine, make an appointment to get caught up before the school year starts.”
Just as in past years, children of all ages should get a flu shot this fall. COVID-19 and the seasonal flu likely will be circulating at the same time once again during the 2021-2022 winter. The flu shot will provide protection against the seasonal bugs that cause the flu.
Mask When Necessary
In early August 2021, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy announced a mask mandate for schools—applicable to all students, staff and visitors. “While the Delta variant is surging—and because many schools serve children under the age of 12 who are not currently eligible for vaccination—masks while indoors in schools are vital for protecting both students and teachers,” says Dr. Niketakis-Wujciak.
Continue to Emphasize Good Hygiene
Continue to encourage your kids to practice good hygiene at school and at home:
- Wash hands for 20 seconds with soap and water
- Use hand sanitizer when soap and water are not available
- Cough or sneeze into the elbow
Make Sure Adults at Home Are Vaccinated
While kids under the age of 12 can’t get vaccinated, it’s even more important for adults to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Fully vaccinated adults are less likely to spread the virus and infect children.
Next Steps & Resources:
- Meet our source: Valerie Niketakis-Wujciak, M.D. To make an appointment with Dr. Niketakis-Wujciak or a doctor near you, call 800-822-8905 or visit our website.
- Is your teen or preteen suffering from anxiety?
- 6 questions parents are asking about vaccines for kids
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.