Raising Healthy Kids During the Pandemic & Returning to School Post Covid: The Highlights

Kristy Braun, Advanced Nurse Practitioner from OSF Medical Group Pediatrics, shared some great information with parents during the Raising Healthy Kids During the Pandemic & Returning to School Post Covid presentation offered through the Bloomington Public Library in partnership with BN Parents. Her voice after working in the field for 27 years came through as both trusted and reassuring.

She kicked off the presentation with the reassurance that COVID-19 is not as severe in children. However, went to share that 4 million children in the US have been diagnosed with COVID-19, 400 deaths have occurred and, locally, some children are experiencing long-term complications.

As a parent, Kristy indicated you should be concerned about the new Delta variant. The speed of transmission has doubled with it and we are likely to see more variants until we can decrease numbers worldwide.

To date, the impact of quarantine/social distancing is seen in reduced physical health, lower grades, and in mental health where they are seeing a 25% increase in anxiety, depression and eating disorder due to the pandemic. The habits that have negatively affected physical health are diets (kids eating too much and not healthy), poor sleep hygiene, decrease in exercise and an increase in screen time. Impacting mental health is a lack of routine, purpose, negativity and screen time, death of family members, social isolation (not meeting social milestones).

The good news, there are things you can do. Kristy suggests:

Remember the Positives

  • Family time
  • Meal time
  • Less hectic schedules
  • More free time and creativity
  • Learning new activities

Help Reduce Stress

  • TURN OFF screens, take breaks
  • Model positive behavior
  • Decrease negativity
  • Sleep
  • Exercise
  • Get outside/ natural light
  • Healthy diets/snacks
  • Practice mindfulness/meditation/relaxation techniques
  • Check in with teen/child. It is okay to ASK how they are doing.
  • Recognize issues of concern (change in weight, sleep diet, friends, lack of interest).

Take Precautions

The return to school can happen safely. She shared the precautions schools took last year worked. She recommends schools, parents and students continue to:

  • Mask: protect all, not just your child.
  • Hand washing
  • Safe spacing
  • Stay home if you are sick
  • Testing/ quarantine
  • Prepare mental health for return. Expect more anxiety. Let the school know if your child is struggling.
  • Schools should be cleaning and provide adequate ventilation. It is okay to ask what your school is doing.
  • Vaccinate

To address concerns over the vaccines. Kristy reinforced her job is to prevent illness and Injury in pediatrics, getting a vaccine is one way to do this. She shared vaccines are not new to us. We know how to make vaccines. Because there was international collaboration and the funding was unlimited, producing the COVID-19 vaccine did happen quickly but it is a medical marvel she trusts and recommends.

She went on to say, “It is very disheartening to me that I am still seeing complications from covid when we can prevent serious complications and death with a vaccine.  96 % of those getting serious covid and dying are now the unvaccinated population.”

In addition to preventing death and preventing serious complication, a benefit to getting vaccinated is that you and/or your child do not   need to quarantine if exposed.  She anticipates upcoming approval for younger kids (as early as September, and by Christmas for younger than 5).

Resources to Learn More

Healthy Children (https://healthychildren.org/English/Pages/default.aspx )

Center for Disease Control and Prevention (https://www.cdc.gov/ )

McLean County Health Department (https://health.mcleancountyil.gov/ )

Your Primary Care Provider