The Current

From hospital visits to co-parenting, answers to kids' questions about COVID-19

From how long viruses can live on surfaces to whether the doctor’s office is still a safe place to visit, Dr. Brian Goldman answers COVID-19 questions from kids across Canada.

Dr. Brian Goldman and Tai Poole tackle questions from Canadian kids

With the help of podcaster Tai Poole, right, Dr. Brian Goldman answered questions about how long viruses can live on surface, whether it can mutate, and if the doctor’s office is still a safe place to visit. (CBC Podcasts)

While kids across Canada practice physical distancing to prevent the spread of COVID-19, they're processing their own questions and fears about the virus.

Podcaster Tai Poole is one of them. He's been reading the news at home and feeling worried.

"I've been anxious. You hear all the stuff in the news — but that doesn't even pale in comparison to the fact that I'm so cooped up. There's only so much of your family you can deal with," the Tai Asks Why told host The Current's Matt Galloway.

Dr. Brian Goldman, an emergency room physician and host of White Coat, Black Art and The Dose podcast, addressed concerns from kids across the country — including one of Tai's questions.

Dr. Goldman advises folks to look out for symptoms like coughing, fever, difficulty breathing, general weakness and fatigue. (Camelialy/Shutterstock)

How would I know I'm sick? From Tai, 13, Toronto

COVID-19 patients have symptoms like coughing, fever, difficulty breathing, general weakness and fatigue, Goldman explained.

If a patient got a chest X-ray, it might also show infection in the lungs. Some lose their appetite and ability to smell.

Symptoms may take up to 14 days to show up after you've been exposed. 

"That's likely the longest period of time. We think in most people it's less, more like five to seven days," Goldman said. 

But some people may have few or no symptoms, so scientists are trying to figure out whether those people can spread the virus to other people.

How do they test people for COVID-19?

Doctors and nurses use a swab to take a sample from deep inside the nostril. It's called a nasopharyngeal swab, which looks like a very long and flexible Q-Tip. 

"It tickles and it irritates a bit…. It's not painful," Goldman explained.  

The swab might also induce a cough, which is why medical staff will wear protection and put a mask on the patient while performing the test. 

But unless you get sick with suspected COVID-19 and admitted to a hospital, it's unlikely that you will receive a test right now.

Doctors and nurses will take a swab from way up inside your nostril to test you for COVID-19. It's called a nasopharyngeal swab, and looks like a very long, very thin and very flexible Q-Tip, said Dr. Goldman. (Shared Health/Province of Manitoba)

If you have a broken limb, are you still able to go to the ER? Tess, 11, Toronto

Emergency rooms, like Dr. Goldman's, have figured out ways to help contain the virus.

Patients are put in different zones — green, amber and red, he explained. COVID-19 patients are quarantined in a different section of the emergency department from other patients.

Goldman assured that people should still feel safe to go to the hospital. 

"You should absolutely still go to the ER if you break a limb, and grown-ups with heart attacks and strokes should definitely still call 911 and get taken to the emergency department."

For non-urgent visits, many family doctors are now offering online appointments.

How long can the coronavirus live on certain surfaces? Casia, 7, B.C.

A recent study found that how long viruses can live depends on the type of surface. The study found that COVID-19 can survive on plastic for up to three days, on stainless steel surfaces for up to 48 hours, and on cardboard for 24 hours.

One reason some surfaces are riskier is the smoothness of the material. Viruses survive longer on smooth surfaces like plastic and most metals.

Viruses generally don't survive as long on surfaces like paper or clothing, so cards in the mail, for example, should be safe. In the time it takes for a card to get from a friend to you, a virus on paper would have died, Goldman explained. But it's still important to wash your hands frequently and not touch your face.

Another reason is how often the surface is touched. Things like doorknobs, faucets and phones are touched by a lot of people, and can therefore infect a lot of people.

Can kids whose parents live in different places still travel to see them? 

Co-parents can make sure that kids are taken back and forth directly from one parent's house to the other's. That means no drop-offs at other places like stores, because that increases the risk of picking up COVID-19 along the way.

If anybody in the house develops symptoms, including kids, that person must self-isolate. Which means the child should no longer travel between residences.

"What you can do is visit them virtually," Goldman suggested. "You can use apps like House Party, FaceTime and WhatsApp."


Written by Judy Ziyi Gu. Produced by Danielle Grogan.

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