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With much still unknown about the novel coronavirus COVID-19, Robin LaCroix, Pediatric Infectious Disease specialist and Medical Director of Prisma Health Upstate’s Children’s Hospital, said the basics of good health and hygiene are important.

“Good old-fashioned soap and water are good frontline defenses,” she said. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there is no indication that children are more susceptible to the illness than adults. 

“Fortunately, early reports are that children are doing pretty well,” LaCroix said. “It’s the adults who have a harder time with it.”

Though the news about COVID-19 is rapidly developing, LaCroix said the period of shedding the virus seems to be about 14 days. 

“Just like flu, we believe you are contagious before you are symptomatic,” LaCroix said. 

One of the challenges with the illness is that, unlike influenza for which there is a vaccine and antiviral medication, the current treatment available for COVID-19 is supportive care.

“We treat the effects of the virus,” LaCroix said.

The steps adults and children should use to help limit exposure to coronavirus are the same as those they should use during flu season: wash hands properly and often, use alcohol-based hand sanitizer in between hand washing, and cough or sneeze into your elbow, not your hand. Teach kids to use a tissue (not their sleeve) for nose wiping and sneezes and then to throw the tissue into the trash. 

“We don’t know how long it can exist in the environment yet, but like most viruses, it’s hours to potentially a couple of days,” depending on conditions, LaCroix said. 

Since the contagion is respiratory and spread through coughed or sneezed droplets, the risk of spreading it is greater in larger groups. 

LaCroix said it is not yet clear what the full impact will be, but if you have a fever or cough, that is not a reason to panic. 

“There are so many other viruses circulating in the community,” she said. 

LaCroix said parents should use common sense prevention and do what they would do in a significant flu season:

·      Wash hands often using soap and water. Scrub for 20 seconds – enough time to sing the ABC song. 

·      Have alcohol-based hand sanitizer readily available. 

·      Keep children at home if they are sick. 

·      Clean “high touch areas,” like light switches, doorknobs, remotes, etc., regularly. 

·      Take care of yourself by staying well hydrated, getting enough sleep and eating a healthy diet.

·      Avoid touching your face. 

·      Get a flu shot. It’s not too late, and while it does not cover coronavirus, flu is still circulating in the Upstate. 

·      If you have travel planned, LaCroix advises being aware of where there are increasing numbers of cases of COVID-19. 

·      Stay informed with up to date information from the CDC at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV and https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/specific-groups/pregnant-women.html (for pregnant women and children) and the American Academy of Pediatrics at https://healthychildren.org

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