Of Kids, School and Germs: What You Need to Know
Ashanti Woods, M.D., FAAP, specializes in General Pediatrics at Mercy Family Care Physicians in Baltimore, Maryland. Dr. Woods is Board Certified by the American Board of Pediatrics. He offers a wide spectrum of pediatric care for newborns through adolescents. Recently, Dr. Woods responded to questions regarding parents’ concerns about their children “picking up germs” in school and bringing them home…an issue made all the worse by the COVID-19 pandemic:
“As more kids return to schools and to daycare, one thing that pediatricians and teachers and parents can expect is the swapping of germs. While masks and excellent hand hygiene greatly reduce the transmission of germs, children are still at risk for many contagious illnesses, specifically illnesses caused by viruses.
And while the current goal is to minimize one’s exposure and transmission of COVID-19, the likelihood of being infected with a different, more common virus is actually greater.
There are literally millions of viruses that exist in the world, with hundreds (if not thousands) of those viruses being capable of causing the symptoms of the common cold. Because of this abundance of viruses and the overall poor hand hygiene of children, the transmission of viruses between students at school and daycare remains high — school year after school year.
This is most commonly seen at the return to school in the fall, cough and cold season in the late fall and winter, and occasionally at the start of seasonal allergy season in the spring. Prior to masks, kids and teenagers were at the mercy of their classmates’ ability to cover their mouth and nose with each sneeze and cough. As one can imagine, these sometimes cumbersome skills have yet to be developed by the youngest of children and are only moderately practiced at best by older teenagers. As a result, children inevitably swap germs and therefore become ill during the first few days of the return to school period.
However, it is not only children who are responsible for the passing of germs. Parents, who are often have other obligations such as attending work or caring for another child will at times send their children to school with symptoms which also leads to the transmission of germs. Instead, parents should make alternative arrangements when they see that their son or daughter is exhibiting symptoms of the common cold, even when they feel their symptoms may be due to seasonal allergies. (When parents suspect seasonal allergies as the cause of their child’s symptoms, they should give their child seasonal allergy medication, usually in the form of an antihistamine, and observe the child to make sure that they get better. If they improve, then the parent was likely correct that their child is having a seasonal allergy flare. However, if their child fails to improve, he or she may like we have a viral infection and should stay home until their child is symptom-free, including free of fever.)
Minimizing the transmission of germs and illnesses in the school setting is a community responsibility and children, their parents, teachers, and pediatricians all have a role to play in keeping our children safe.”
--Ashanti Woods, M.D., FAAP
Dr. Woods routinely serves as a pediatric medical consultant for a variety of children’s medical and lifestyle topics for local television stations, newspapers, national magazines, blogs and blog talk radio. Dr. Woods has written a variety of clinical publications and presentations. Dr. Woods sees patients on the 12th floor of the McAuley Tower, Mercy Medical Center, 301 St. Paul Place in downtown Baltimore. He practices alongside his colleagues, Mercy Family Care Physicians Drs. Jonathan Clemens, Michele Jules-Chapman, Gary Friedman, Kate Iwamoto, Dawan King, Jeanne McCauley and Michelle Williams.
Founded in 1874 in downtown Baltimore by the Sisters of Mercy, Mercy Medical Center is a 183-licensed bed acute care university-affiliated teaching hospital. Mercy has been recognized as a top Maryland hospital by U.S. News & World Report; a Top 100 hospital for Women’s Health & Orthopedics by Healthgrades; is currently A-rated for Hospital Safety (Leapfrog Group), and is recognized by the American Nurses Credentialing Center as a Magnet Hospital. Mercy Medical Center is part of Mercy Health Services (MHS), the parent of Mercy’s primary care and specialty care physician enterprise, known as Mercy Personal Physicians, which employs more than 200 providers with locations in Baltimore, Lutherville, Overlea, Glen Burnie, Columbia and Reisterstown. For more information about Mercy, visit www.mdmercy.com, MDMercyMedia on Facebook, Twitter, or call 1-800-MD-Mercy.