4 Steps Parents Can Take to Protect Their Child’s Immunity Right Now

Wellness Checks

Keeping our children healthy seems harder than ever as the pandemic continues. Stanford Children’s Health pediatrician Jacob “Jake” Weatherly, MD, has four tips that parents can use right now to help protect their child’s health, from maintaining well visits to getting the flu shot.

Stick to the recommended vaccination schedule

The best thing that parents can do for their child’s immunity is to stick to their immunization schedule: Diphtheria, pertussis, several strains of bacterial pneumonia, rotavirus, meningitis, measles, mumps, and rubella can be harmful and even life-threatening for children. The good news is that these diseases are preventable with routine vaccinations.

Pediatrician Jacob “Jake” Weatherly discusses the importance of well visits in a podcast.


 

“Really, there’s nothing routine about the childhood vaccines. There is so much excitement right now about the COVID vaccine, and when these routine childhood vaccines were developed, they were just as exciting because they prevented terrible diseases that we fortunately no longer have to contend with on such a large scale,” Dr. Weatherly explained.

With the current pandemic already straining health care resources, vaccines are vital for keeping children healthy. “All of these that we call the ‘routine vaccines’ are so important now—and in some ways more important than ever—to prevent outbreaks of these preventable diseases during the COVID pandemic.”

Keep going to pediatric well visits

In addition to vaccines, your child’s pediatrician uses well visits to monitor how your child is growing and developing. He or she will check to make sure your child is thriving and look out for potential issues. Early intervention is important for getting ahead of or preventing potential health and developmental problems.

“Child development is time sensitive,” Dr. Weatherly says. “The rate at which children are growing in terms of physical growth like height and weight changes with age and follows a predictable pattern. It’s important we track that growth at the routine intervals when children’s checkups are scheduled because a delay in growth and development can be a sign of an underlying medical problem that needs timely attention.”

If parents are concerned about possible exposure to the coronavirus, they should talk to their pediatrician. Most practices have increased safeguards to protect patients and their families from exposure, and some visits may be appropriate for virtual or telehealth options.

Get flu shots for the whole family

A yearly flu shot can help keep the whole family safe. It is particularly important for people who are at higher risk of flu complications, like the elderly and children under age 2. The flu vaccine can help keep people from getting sick or going to the hospital when it is already burdened with COVID-19 cases. Plus, there is the potential for someone to have both the flu and coronavirus at the same time.

“We know that it is possible for people in general and for children to be co-infected with two or even more viruses. So it is possible for a child to have an influenza infection and also a COVID-19 infection or another viral infection,” Dr. Weatherly says. “Preventing the influenza component is hugely important for keeping us healthy and trying to reduce our need to go to emergency rooms or hospitals or even intensive care units during this very difficult period.”

Keep up protective measures against coronavirus

According to Dr. Weatherly, maintaining social distancing is one of the most important ways to stay healthy during this pandemic. Wearing a mask in public and frequent handwashing and sanitizing are all things we can do to reduce exposure to the virus.

“We really all need to redouble our efforts at preventing exposure and transmission of COVID-19,” he says. “And so it means good handwashing, wearing our mask when we’re outside of the home, trying our best to stay 6 feet away from people who are outside of our household, and staying home if we have possible symptoms of COVID-19.”

As we enter the second year of dealing with the pandemic, Dr. Weatherly advises parents to be gentle with themselves. Along with the COVID-19 precautions, parents should try to take time to care for themselves by maintaining healthy habits like eating well, getting enough rest, and asking for help if they get overwhelmed.

“This is a challenging time. Parents are doing their best to balance all the needs of their children—physical health, mental and emotional well-being, and their education and learning. Have a lot of compassion and empathy for yourself, too, as parents,” he says. “The pandemic and these times are more than a parent can take on themselves and do alone, so enlist help. Enlist the help of your pediatrician, teachers, schools, therapists, and mental health professionals.”

Listen to the full podcast.


 

Listen to other HealthTalks podcasts by Stanford Children’s Health >


Authors

Leave a Reply

  • (will not be published)