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Go Ask Mom

They might not be licking grocery carts, but kids still get sick; common ailments during the pandemic

Posted July 21, 2020 8:43 p.m. EDT

Photo by Laura Lee Moreau on Unsplash

During this ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, kids might not be out and about licking grocery carts and mingling with friends, but they're still experiencing the usual summertime childhood ailments.

Here's what Dr. Colin Orr, a pediatrician at UNC Children's Primary Care Clinic, is seeing in his daily practice.

Skin Issues

Younger children, especially those less than two years of age, are coming in with a host of skin concerns that leave them itchy and irritated. Eczema and dry skin are two common issues. Ring worm and fungal infections, particularly in the diaper area of infants, are other treatable worries.

Luckily, you may not need to actually see a doctor, in person, to get help for your child.

"With telemedicine, we're able to take care of that virtually and save our families the obstacle of coming in and reducing the risk by addressing the issues at home," Dr. Orr said.

Before a telemedicine visit, try to get a really good photograph of the problem area, thinking about the lighting and angle of the shot, to help the doctor out.

Ear Pain

If kids are going to the pool or splashing in local rivers and lakes and complaining about ear pain, they could be suffering from swimmer's ear, an infection of the external ear. "It is exquisitely painful and needs to be treated with ear drops," Dr. Orr said.

Parents of kids under the age of two also continue to be concerned about ear pain and infections. "We're still seeing a good number of families and children where they are presenting a chief complaint of ear pain," Dr. Orr said. It could be an ear infection or swimmer's ear or they could simply be discovering that they actually have ears and pulling on them more.

Stomach Concerns

As most any parent knows, at the pediatrician's office, "we spend a lot of time talking about children's poop," Dr. Orr said.

Children continue to come in with issues related to chronic constipation. An upset stomach also could stem from a urinary tract infection, reflux and other issues. "We're still seeing acute issues that aren't necessarily infectious in nature," he said.

Mental Health Worries

Kids have been pent up at home, away from friends, school, teammates and the usual routines of life. And parents may be even more attuned to their children's struggles because they are with them all the time or witnessed them fall behind with school work during virtual learning.

Parents continue to seek guidance on how to help their children with issues like ADHD or anxiety, especially among adolescents. Doctors and therapists can help families address issues like these through telehealth sessions.

Covid Questions

The possible symptoms for COVID-19 are broad — from high fever and cough to vomiting and diarrhea. Kids coming in with symptoms like these often get tested though they may be sick with something else.

"The current testing criteria that we're operating under, and in an attempt to maximize public safety and not miss a case of COVID, it's very broad testing," Dr. Orr said. "The criteria is really big."

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that any parent who is worried about their child's symptoms or who has a child who has been exposed to COVID-19 contact their pediatrician immediately.

But there could very well be other reasons why your child is experiencing any number of these symptoms. Vomiting and diarrhea could point to another virus that's out and around us. Allergies could causes a cough or runny nose. A visit with a doctor can help to allay any concerns and ensure your child gets the treatment they need.

Dr. Orr emphasized that it is safe to bring children in for annual checkups and immunizations.

Doctor's offices and clinics are taking new steps to prevent the transmission of the coronavirus in their practices. "We now have universal [Personal Protective Equipment] precautions," he said.

Doctors wear surgical masks, and children and adults wear face coverings if they are able. Families often bypass waiting rooms and are led straight to an exam room, so they are in an isolated area and there's less risk of exposure.

"When we are seeing children that have symptoms consistent with COVID, we have the opportunity to have more complete PPE precautions in order to be able to see the child, take care of the child for COVID if necessary, but ensure that everybody who is taking care of that child and in the clinic from the moment the family walks in is adequately protected to keep everyone safe," Dr. Orr said.

If in doubt about your own child's health concerns — whether it's a nasty diaper rash or a dry cough — call your pediatrician, Dr. Orr said.

"The mantra of pediatrics is prevention," he said. They might not be able to prevent an illness or concern a family has, but they can stop it from getting worse.

Said Orr: "That is what we strive to do."