Akron Children’s Hospital Pediatrician Dr. Sarah Adams shares insight on COVID-19 and how to protect your family.
How is COVID-19 different from Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), Ebola and other global outbreaks?
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that are common in people and many different species of animals. Human coronaviruses can cause mild disease similar to a common cold, while others cause more severe respiratory disease. Ebola and SARS are both more deadly that COVID-19 but rarer and less infectious.
How dangerous is COVID-19 compared to the flu?
Both viruses can range from mild to very severe symptoms and have caused many deaths. COVID-19 is much more contagious, but there are fewer cases of COVID-19 and deaths in the U.S. compared to flu. COVID-19 is a novel – or new – virus that we are learning more about every day. The statistics are changing daily. We have a vaccine to reduce our risk of getting seasonal flu, but we don’t yet have a vaccine to protect against COVID-19.
Who is most at risk for COVID-19?
Older adults, with risk increasing by age, and people who have serious medical conditions like heart disease, diabetes and lung problems. COVID-19 seems to be impacting children at lower rates than adults, and those who contract the virus typically have mild illness.
Anyone can have symptoms of fever and respiratory distress, however, not just those at high risk.
Is COVID-19 dangerous to pregnant women?
In general, pregnant women are at increased risk for infection and serious illness due to physiological and immunologic changes in their bodies. While data on COVID-19 are limited, Dr. Denise Jamieson, MPH, chair of the Department of Gynecology and Obstetrics at Emory University School of Medicine, said pregnant women should be considered an at-risk group.
Are people of certain ethnicities or geographic regions more susceptible?
No. It is important to remember that people – including those of Asian descent – who do not live in or have not recently been in an area of ongoing spread of the virus that causes COVID-19, or have not been in contact with a person who is a confirmed or suspected case of COVID-19 are not at greater risk of spreading COVID-19 than other Americans. Fear and anxiety can lead to social stigma including those of certain ethnicities, those who have traveled at all and health care workers.
Can someone spread the virus without having symptoms?
People with mild illness still can transmit the virus to others, and there also have been reports of asymptomatic transmission. But people are thought to be most contagious when they are most symptomatic (sickest).
The incubation period is 1-14 days, usually around 5 days after exposure. Some spread might be possible before people show symptoms; there have been reports of this occurring with this new coronavirus, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.
What are tips on how families can protect themselves, especially those with medically fragile kids?
Transmission is primarily by respiratory droplets. To avoid becoming infected and infecting others, children and adults should:
- Wash their hands frequently for 20 seconds with soap and water.
- Use alcohol-hand sanitizer that’s greater than 60% alcohol.
- Cover coughs and sneezes.
- Stay home if they are sick.
- Avoid people who are ill.
- Avoid touching their eyes, nose and mouth with unclean hands.
- Keep their immune system strong by eating healthy foods, drinking plenty of water and getting plenty of rest.
- Only wear a mask if you are ill or caring for someone who is sick.
Does gargling with salt water, using essential oils, eating garlic or taking vitamin C reduce your risk?
Garlic is a healthy food that may have some antimicrobial properties. Taking vitamin C and using essential oils have immune boosting and healing properties. However, there is no evidence that these methods protect people from COVID-19.
Should people be stocking up on nonperishable food, toilet paper, etc.?
It’s a sensible measure if:
- Your health care provider recommends that you or a family member be quarantined.
- You are a person who is at high risk.
- You are elderly and more likely to stay home.
My child has a doctor’s appointment coming up. Should I keep it?
We recommend rescheduling non-urgent outpatient visits as necessary, including well baby/well child visits. Akron Children’s Hospital Pediatrics staff is assisting families with these visits and guiding families on when it is necessary to come in.
Quick Care Online is another avenue to offer for patients and those with symptoms such as mild fever and upper respiratory infections. Our primary care RNs are also available to answer questions.
How do you talk to your kids about this situation without scaring them?
We encourage parents to:
- Provide simple information and reassurance.
- Consider monitoring or limiting media exposure.
- Correct misinformation.
- Try to keep routines as much as possible.
- Remind children of the actions they can take to keep themselves and their community safe like handwashing and covering coughs.
Read more about the hospital’s preparedness efforts and other key facts regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.