This Is the One Thing You Shouldn't Let Your Kids Do Amid Coronavirus

You may be begging for childcare, but it's safest to keep your kids away from their grandparents.

While coronavirus' effects on a global scale have been nothing short of devastating, many people are finding some small comfort in the notion that kids seem to be less severely affected by the virus than their adult counterparts. In fact, according to an April 2020 study published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases, while children under 10 became infected at similar rates as adults, their symptoms were typically less serious.

With many parents suddenly working from home, watching their children, and often homeschooling at the same time, a return to normal—including having grandparents tackle some of the childcare—has never seemed so appealing. However, even for families who have done their best to stay safe, spending time with older family members could be a seriously risky proposition.

"The bottom line is that most grandparents are in the highest COVID risk group simply based upon their age," explains pediatrician Cara Natterson, founder of Worry Proof Consulting and author of Decoding Boys.

Natterson says that some studies indicate that children with coronavirus experience a less pronounced cytokine response—a type of inflammatory response which, if severe enough, can cause organ damage leading to death—than adults. But that doesn't mean they're any less contagious.

In addition to having less pronounced symptoms, kids may have up to a 50 percent likelihood of being asymptomatic when they have the virus, explains Natterson. Unfortunately, it is asymptomatic carriers who may present the biggest risk to the elderly and immunocompromised. "In fact, if you don't know you are infected, you might be more likely to pass it on to others because you may not take the precautions necessary to prevent spread," says Natterson. She notes even relatively safe-seeming activities, like going grocery shopping, taking walks with friends, and eventually returning to work or school, can lead to new coronavirus cases that can easily spread to grandparents with potentially devastating results.

So, when will it be safe for your little ones to spend time with their grandparents again? Natterson says that the availability of a vaccine, wider coronavirus and antibody testing, and the eventual development of herd immunity—when the majority of the population has some immunity to the virus through either a vaccine or having been exposed to it directly—things can start returning to normal. However, Natterson notes that, in order to keep vulnerable members of the population safe in the initial stages of reopening, preventative measures like maintaining social distancing, frequent hand washing, and sanitizing surfaces should remain in effect.

Once a vaccine is available, Natterson says that parents and children still can't necessarily resume contact with vulnerable family members immediately. "If the most effective vaccine is a live virus vaccine, then there will be some shedding, and you may hear about recommendations to stay isolated for a period of time after receiving it," she explains. However, Natterson notes that the majority of vaccines aren't live vaccines, in which case, this measure won't be necessary—but only time will tell.

Even when some of the stricter distancing precautions are lifted and businesses and schools start to reopen, Natterson cautions against resuming close physical contact with their older family members, at least initially.

"I know everyone is desperate to start hugging again—my kids certainly can't wait to hug their grandparents—but until we know that this act of love won't pass a potentially deadly virus, we'll have to settle for sharing the same general space without physical contact as a first step." And if you want to keep the members of your inner circle safe, make sure you abide by these 6 Precautions You Must Take Before Visiting Family.

Sarah Crow
Sarah Crow is a senior editor at Eat This, Not That!, where she focuses on celebrity news and health coverage. Read more
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