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What to consider before class begins if your child has chronic health problems

HOUSTON – Parents are asking about the health and safety of children, particularly those with chronic conditions.

Charisma Garcia, MD, pediatrician with the Texas Children’s Health Plan the Center for Children and Women, said the benefits of in-person school exceeds the risk of COVID in most children.

“It offers a safety net, mental and physical health care screenings, it provides families with meals, time for exercise,” Garcia said.

She said kids are less likely to contract and spread the virus. This remains true until students reach about high school or college age.

However, Garcia said parents of children with chronic health conditions should consider if school will be a safe environment for them.

“The [American Academy of Pediatrics] recommends pushing for accommodations instead of exclusions. So, if your child has very severe asthma, we would recommend talking to your pediatrician, updating an emergency profile, make sure you have a plan, but in general, all children should go back to school,” she said.

Here’s the most important thing the American Academy of Pediatrics wants you to know: Yes, they say kids should return to school.

No-- that should not be a return to complete normalcy.

Social distancing, sneeze guards, more handwashing options and masks for kids over 10 years old are needed.

Garcia said that means fourth grade and younger (under 10 years old) should not wear masks.

“They have more delicate airways. Their airways are shorter, so it’s difficult for them to breathe with the mask on, but not only that, they can’t help but to touch their faces. So, they are going to be touching their face. So, they are going to be touching the mask and putting more germs on the mask than if it just wasn’t there,” Garcia said. “They touch little desks, then they wipe their nose and that’s worse than if it was just free but also, kids don’t tend to have a very strong cough or sneeze so they are not able to propel droplets as far as adults can.”