British Columbia

How to keep your kids healthy and anxiety-free during the coronavirus outbreak

Parents should follow the same guidelines as everyone else during the coronavirus outbreak, and make sure their children are, too. That includes washing hands properly, staying home if sick and cleaning common surfaces, which can include items like toys and screens.

Risk is still low enough for schools to remain open in B.C., says provincial health officer

This undated electron microscope image made available by the U.S. National Institutes of Health in February 2020 shows the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, coloured yellow, emerging from the surface of cells cultured in a lab. Also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus causes COVID-19. (U.S. National Institutes of Health/The Canadian Press)

In light of all public schools in Seattle closing because of the spread of novel coronavirus, parents in B.C. have raised concerns about whether schools in the province should remain open.

But B.C.'s provincial health officer says while the situation is being continuously re-evaluated, schools will stay open for the time being. 

"We will be looking at what's happening in our communities and those decisions are ones we'll be making as time goes on," Dr. Bonnie Henry said.

"But at the moment, I do not feel there's a need for us to close schools across the province."

For now, parents should follow the same guidelines as everyone else during the coronavirus outbreak, and make sure their children are, too.

That includes washing hands properly, staying home if sick and cleaning common surfaces, which can include items like toys and screens.

Important reminders:

B.C.'s top doctor, Dr. Bonnie Henry, said the risk of contracting coronavirus in B.C. communities remains low.

Health officials widely agree the most important thing you can do to prevent coronavirus and other illnesses is to wash your hands regularly and avoid touching your face. 

The World Health Organization said more than 80 per cent of COVID-19 infections are estimated to be mild.

What if kids have symptoms?

The initial symptoms of COVID-19 are similar to a flu or cold. They can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing. 

Not everyone who is infected with COVID-19 shows symptoms, and some people will only exhibit very minor symptoms. 

If you or your children show any symptoms, stay home, isolate yourself and call your local public health authority. Do not visit an emergency room or urgent care centre to get tested.

How to manage kids' anxiety 

Although those aged 65 or over are the ones at greatest risk of developing the most serious symptoms, anxiety caused by the pandemic can be frightening for the young, says psychiatrist Dr. Shimi Kang. 

"We already have really high rates of anxiety in young kids, so in a situation like this, we have to be very mindful of how we are discussing it with young people," Kang said.

She recommends telling kids the truth without sugar-coating it too much, using age-appropriate terms. 

But it's very important to move to optimism and grounded facts to reassure them and not put extra stress on them, Kang says.

"Saying things like: 'We know if you wash your hands, use hand sanitizer, that certainly helps. We know that we have health-care providers that are doing their jobs. These are precautionary cancellations. Nothing particularly has happened. People are just being cautious,'" Kang said. 

With files from The Early Edition

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