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  • Writer's picturePaula Robertson

What I learnt from Covid 19


I recently lived through covid 19 as a parent...here's what I learnt along the way.

Recently my son and I lived through a covid 19 infection. We followed our local Public Health guidelines, and thankfully have both made a full recovery, but I learned quite a few useful things along the way. Although I am fully vaccinated, my son at the time was too young to receive the vaccine. This did cause me some anxiety as I had tried hard to shield him from infection and to this day am unsure as to where he may have gotten exposed. I felt myself divided into two parts: The concerned parent, wanting to make sure her child was ok, and also the paediatrician who was interested in tracking the clinical course of the illness.


Here's what I discovered on my journey:


Covid 19 is very infectious. This is particularly true of the more recent strains like omicron. And that means that it’s not always possible to determine when you may have been exposed. I think that with the reopening of schools, public health measures such as ensuring good ventilation, regular hand washing, good respiratory hygiene and sanitizing of high-touch surfaces is key.


The incubation period is short and fever may not always be an initial feature. Literally I dropped my son to school one morning and he was absolutely fine, with no fever (I swear I wasn’t that parent who gave their child a dose of paracetamol and packed them off to school!) About two hours later I was called to collect him as he had started complaining of a headache, some body aches and feeling unwell. The school had acted appropriately by taking him to the designated infirmary area before calling me, and I was fortunate enough to be able to immediately come to collect him. He didn’t develop a fever until a few hours later, and even then his highest recorded temperature was 37.6 degrees Celsius. A Covid Antigen test done the same day was positive. The take home message for me is that the temperature check on entry to public spaces is not a perfect screening tool, so it is important to keep an eye out for possible symptoms such as fever, headache, muscle aches, cough, sneezing, tummy upset and nasal congestion. These are all non-specific symptoms though, so monitor your kids, don’t send them to school if they are unwell, and if your child develops symptoms at school, be prepared to take them home and follow the school’s covid 19 protocols.


It is really difficult to isolate sick children from carers at home. Once I brought my son home, I knew I also had to quarantine and take precautions. If you are looking after someone who is covid positive at home, this usually means ensuring that they use separate utensils, and have a separate bathroom and bedroom if possible, with frequent sanitizing of any commonly used areas. They should also wear a mask in any communal spaces. All well and good, but any parent who’s nursed a sick child will tell you that this practically is challenging, with the need to give lots of nurturing care and cuddles. Younger kids also want to come into your bed space when they feel ill. So it’s especially important to shield other family members who are vulnerable and monitor yourself closely for any symptoms.


The good news...Covid 19 is mild for the majority of healthy children. My son was unwell with headaches, body aches, some tummy upset and mild nasal congestion for about three days, then he was bouncing around the walls like nothing had ever happened! We do however know that there are certain vulnerable groups (for example those who have underlying heart or respiratory issues or have poorly functioning immune systems) for whom covid 19 can be more severe – these kids will need to be prioritized for vaccination once it’s available, and parents should have a low threshold for seeking medical attention if they are unwell. You should also speak to your doctor or paediatrician if you are concerned about your child's symptoms or feel they are not improving.


Have a ‘covid kit’ at home. Your covid kit really needs to contain things to help with the supportive management of common symptoms and should include the following:

  • Paracetamol for fever or pain.

  • An oral rehydration solution. It’s important to keep hydrated and drink lots of fluids during the acute illness. In addition, some children may develop vomiting or diarrhoea, so replacing lost fluids is key. Encourage lots of other fluids as well, such as water, juice and soups.

  • Vitamin C and Zinc. This could be in the form of a daily children’s multivitamin or effervescent tablets for older kids.

  • Saline nose drops or nasal spray, for nasal congestion symptoms. This can be applied once to each nostril up to every two hours as needed.

  • Menthol and eucalyptus oil, to help with night time congestion and aid sleep. This can be used in many ways, such as added to a humidifier or vaporizer in the bedroom at night, or as a drop or two in a warm shower or bath, or as rubs applied to the chest and upper back. Other measures such as taking off air conditioner units at night may also help with night time congestion symptoms.

  • Vitamin D. Vitamin D is essential for a healthy immune system. It can be given as a daily D3 supplement or from nature – just getting into the garden or opening the window and getting at least 5 minutes of sun on exposed skin each day will help your body to produce its own vitamin D.

  • Ensure you have a good supply of any regular medications (including inhalers) that your child may be taking.

Having a 'covid' kit at home can help with managing common symptoms.


It is possible to get covid 19 even if you’ve been vaccinated. Yes, I got it. About 3 days after my son developed symptoms, I started to feel ‘fluey’ and did my own home Covid 19 Antigen test – positive! A confirmatory PCR test was also positive. For me, my symptoms were more along the lines of nasal and sinus congestion, headache, chills and tiredness with a cough that developed a few days later. I am really glad that I got vaccinated though – although we know that the vaccine may not prevent acute infection, particularly with newer strains like the omicron variant, it has been shown to protect against more serious illness, hospitalization and death. Vaccination also provides protection against the rarer more severe sequelae of covid 19 infection such as long-Covid and the multi-inflammatory syndrome MIS-C that can follow 3-5 weeks after acute infection. I believe that being fully immunized meant I was never unwell enough to need hospitalization and I was able to safely isolate at home, which was great for home bonding with my son. The only challenge was that I started getting symptoms right at the time he was recovering nicely! Looking after children when you yourself are sick isn’t easy, so do make sure you look after yourself and use extended family members or friends to do food drops, groceries and regular virtual check ins.


Home testing kits are easy to use and may have a role to play, but do need to be interpreted with caution. Most approved home testing kits are easy to use and can have good accuracy if used in the first 7 days of symptoms. It’s important to ensure that the test kit you use has the approval of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or your local equivalent. Home testing may have a role to play in the management of screening large groups of people, for example as part of a school’s covid 19 management policy’ This would allow for the rapid detection of children who are covid positive, allowing for home isolation and then re-entry to school after the isolation period (usually around 10 days but depends on local Public Health guidelines) is completed, provided their symptoms have resolved and they have had no fever for at least 48 hours. However, it is possible to get a false negative result, so if you have flu-like symptoms and test negative on a home antigen test please check with your healthcare provider who may want to do more formal lab testing or consider other causes for your symptoms. I think it would be a worthwhile discussion to see how we can look at incorporating home antigen testing as part of a national schools’ covid 19 management and monitoring policy.


We are part of a wider community. While I know this intellectually, my recent experience really taught me the value of my network and community. Without family and friends to check on us and drop off needed supplies, we would not have navigated this as well as we did. I definitely would advocate for being our brother’s and sister’s keeper and supporting each other in any way we can. We’re in this together and will come through the pandemic with each other’s support.


Be well,

Paula






Dr Paula Robertson is a mom and a paediatrician with over twenty years' experience working with families and young people. www.paulathedoctormom.com.

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5 Comments


murphy
May 17, 2022

Great article Paula. Thanks for sharing your experience.

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David Jardine
David Jardine
May 17, 2022

Great article! Thanks for posting & for sharing your experiences.

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Paula Robertson
Paula Robertson
May 17, 2022
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Many thanks!

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derryck lamptey
derryck lamptey
May 16, 2022

Great article. I am a strong believer in acting early to curb the length and depth of viral infections. I leaned quite heavily on c19early.com for pointers to the remedies that had been used with some success. Most of the studies (although peer-reviewed) were observational.

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Paula Robertson
Paula Robertson
May 17, 2022
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Thank you!

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