Back to school and COVID: You asked and we have answers

HOUSTON – It’s hard to believe it’s already back to school time in Texas. Many school districts in our area are set to return to class this week. But things are changing, as Covid-19 cases continue to rise and appear to be impacting more children. So we asked our Insiders what back-to-school questions were top of mind.

There is certainly a mixed reaction about going back to school this year. We know there might be some anxiety and we hope answering some of your questions may help. When we asked what our Insiders wanted to know about back to school, the top questions were about health.

Question: Are kids more vulnerable to this strain of covid?

Insider: Vicky, Sugarland

We asked Dr. Michael Chang with Children’s Memorial Hermann where more kids coming in with infections.

“We are seeing that kids make up a higher percentage of new infections, and they have at any time in the past,” said Dr. Michael Chang, UTHealth, Children’s Memorial Hermann. “About one in five new infections now are in pediatric patients. We have more kids in the hospital with covid symptoms at the same time than we have ever had throughout the pandemic. Most of the kids that we are seeing with symptomatic covid are kind of older teenagers that are maybe obese or potentially have some other underlying condition like asthma.”

Question: Should I keep my child at home if we have someone living with us who has a compromised immune system?

Insider: Nazy, Sharpstown area

“Whether or not to homeschool your child, it’s going to be a different calculation for every family,” explains Dr. Chang. “How well can the child you know, kind of manage mitigation measures like wearing a mask in school, and doing good hygiene, you know, the age of the child, we still think that there’s some difference in contagiousness between different kids of different ages. So if it’s a teenager or an older child, we think they are more contagious, like adults.”

“I think if you think your child can do well, with homeschooling and you have the resources to do that, and you’re very concerned about the imminent immunocompromised status of your family member, then yeah, definitely consider it.”

At the same time, you know, there are families where the child just is not going to do well at home, or they’re younger, and they’re able to do their mask, then that may be a different consideration. Definitely consider it.

Question: How do I know if I should get my child vaccinated?

KPRC 2 Insider question (we got a few questions about this.)

“I think it’s important for parents to remember, you know, you’re not just considering vaccination or no vaccination, what you’re really trying to balance is vaccination versus the risks of getting Covid,” said Dr. Chang. “We know that there are other complications from having Covid infection, including pediatric patients getting long haul Covid.

“Based on the information we have right now the benefits of vaccination definitely outweigh the risks and they definitely are better than the risk of getting infected with Covid.”

Dr. Chang says 90% of the reactions from vaccines are not serious and the more serious side effects are treatable. So monitor your children for any chest pain, tightness, or flutters and take them to a doctor if they’re experiencing them.

Question: When immunizations will be approved for children under 12?

“The trials are ongoing, still down to as young as six months of age, both from Moderna and from Pfizer, and I think Johnson and Johnson as well,” explains Dr. Chang. “Hopefully, we’ll see younger kids five years to 11 years be able to be vaccinated, maybe by November, hopefully, by the end of the year, for sure.”

Question: Are certain ages of children getting the delta variant of Covid worse than others?

“Most of the kids that we are seeing with symptomatic Covid are kind of older teenagers that are maybe obese or potentially have some other underlying condition like asthma,” said Dr. Chang. “But we are also seeing some events and kids under one who do have a fever and sometimes have respiratory symptoms and are being admitted with Covid to and so you know, those are kind of the two big populations that we’re seeing that are being hospitalized with COVID.”

Dr. Chang says most of the patients that are hospitalized, that are eligible for the vaccine are not vaccinated.

Question: Is it true teenage boys are more likely to deal with side effects from the Covid vaccine?

Dr. Chang explains very rare cases experienced some serious side effects, the most common of which is myocarditis, pericarditis, which is inflammation of the heart or inflammation of the covering of the heart.

“Pericarditis problem is reported more often in boys 12 to 17 years, 12 to 29 years than women than females,” explains Dr. Chang. “One thing that you want to that you do want to look out for is if you do get your teenager vaccinated, especially after the second dose, Within two to say, six days after the second dose, if you have any complaints of like chest pain, chest tightness, heart fluttering, abnormal heartbeat, heart rhythm, anything that is heart-related, that you’re kind of worried about, definitely talk to your pediatrician or provider, or bring them to an urgent care emergency room.”

Question: Do kids need to wear masks during extracurricular activities?

Dr. Chang explains that different activities have different levels of risk.

“Generally speaking, I think very few experts now think that people need to wear masks outside, even with Delta,” said Dr. Chang.

“I think when you look at the data that we have about on outdoor sports activities, whether it’s football practice, or tennis, soccer, there’s been very few reports of transmission from outdoor activities. If your after-school activities are primarily sports, marching band, things that are outside, the risk of transmission in those settings is very low. I think it’s important for kids to be able to do those out, you know, their after school activities, because it’s good for their mental health, it’s good for their socialization, it’s good for, you know, really for their just kind of general well being.”

The problem would be after you finish the outdoor activity.

“You need to cool off when people move into the locker rooms or the gyms after football practice, and you still have your mask off, but now you’re in an indoor space, you really need to be cautious because we have seen outbreaks of delta variant from indoor facilities. There was a gymnastics facility in Oklahoma, the recent church camp outbreak in Galveston County, there’s a lot of indoor kind of activities without mask and without mitigation measures.”

“When you’re outside, you’re not too worried about transmission. But once you come inside, you want to try to put on your mask, try to do your physical distancing, pay attention to hygiene.”

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