Ever since the first case of ‘covid 19’ was confirmed in Ireland on the 29th February 2020 by the Chief Medical Officer for the Department of Health, Dr Tony Holohan, and The National Public Health Emergency Team it is fair to say we have been on tender hooks. The creches and Schools closed on March 13th and family life was officially thrown into turmoil. No visits to grandparents, no play dates or activities for our children, and ultimately ‘lock down’ where we now exist. I say exist because there’s a big hanging atmosphere which lingers, it feels like a forced pause, we are all waiting. We are waiting for things to improve, and waiting for normal time to return. We as parents are trying to process this information during times of job losses, working from home, minding our kids, maintaining our households, and for those like myself and my pharmacy team, in addition to the many other healthcare and key service providers we go to work. All the time on the news we are hearing numbers which darken our inner core. We hear the daily number of deaths.
As a parent I have never felt so challenged to be a grown up. As a Pharmacist I have never felt such pressure to be a professional. Those parents who have suffered job losses or loss of income are challenged to carry this burden morning and night. So here we are wondering how we can protect our young, emotionally, physically, academically, financially and kindheartedly. It’s a big ask. It’s a crisis we have little control over. One where we must trust everyone to do their jobs in order to allow us to do ours, and to keep us safe. As a society we all have a job, a burden, a responsibility, and that is of course to stay at home. Following guidance we must stay at home, we must keep social distance outside of our households, we must stay apart to keep our vulnerable groups safe so that soon, when the time is right, we can hold each other close again.
I could philosphise all day, but really, as always I am here writing to try and bring my two worlds of family life and Pharmacy together, to try to guide parents on what information may be useful. It comes with a caveat, my three kids are currently playing mummies and babies in the room next door and will no doubt interrupt me a thousand times looking for snacks or distraction so if its a little disjointed forgive me! Ill try to break it down into sections for that very reason. I will, in the coming weeks as time allows, write more articles on different aspects of the coronavirus pandemic including pregnancy, children with autism, vitamin D updates, vaccine updates etc. For now I will focus on what you need to know as a parent whilst looking after your child during this challenging time. I know my limitations though, so I’ll leave the teaching, and entertainment to the professionals and resources like brainpop and twinkl.ie etc who have been saving my bacon since homeschooling started!!
Restricting movements and self isolation
In essence there are three things to consider, ‘lockdown’, restriction of movements and self isolation.
We are all restricted to where we can go and why we can leave the house by ‘lock down’ so I won’t bore you more with that.
However some people need to restrict their movements more that the standard regulations. People who need to ‘restrict movements’ cannot leave the house. There are several supports and volunteer groups available to help you with things like grocery and medicine deliveries.
You need to restrict your movements for 14 days (unless you have a negative test result) if:
- live with someone who has symptoms of coronavirus, but you feel well.
- are a close contact of a confirmed case of coronavirus.
- have returned to Ireland from another country.
For all of that information you can read more by clicking here!
Self isolation is different to restricting your movements as it is only needed when you have the symptoms of the coronavirus (see the link below), or are waiting for a test or test results. Self-isolation means staying indoors and completely avoiding contact with other people.
You will need to self-isolate:
- if you have symptoms of coronavirus
- before you get tested for coronavirus
- while you wait for test results
- if you have had a positive test result for coronavirus
- if you have any cold or flu-like symptoms, such as sore throat, runny nose, blocked nose, cough or wheezing
According to the HSE ‘Most people with coronavirus will only have mild symptoms and will get well within weeks. Even though the symptoms are mild, you can still spread the virus to others.’ Luckily children are not in the age group whom are most affected by severe disease with this infection which is a big reassurance to us as parents. Their ability to spread the virus is however a concern. This is why it’s so important to keep them away from the grandparents or ‘at risk’ groups at the moment. Even though your child may not have symptoms they may be carrying the virus and could pass it to someone who would not find it so easy to deal with.
If you or your child develop a fever or any respiratory symptoms phone your GP or HSELive on 1850 241 1850.
When you or your child’s 14 days are up you can stop self isolating, or if in the meanwhile you have had a negative test result you can also stop isolating.
How to self isolate – you or your child
- If you, as a parent, need to self isolate you need to keep away from others in your home as much as you can. This can be challenging for a million obvious reasons when children are involved. If you can have the other parent look after your child’s needs. If you cannot isolate at home you may need to look into the Isolation facilities – contact the HSE on 18502411850 or your GP for advice if you are unsure on how to proceed to check guidance for situations such as being a single parent with symptoms or having insufficient space at home to self isolate in one room. If you are able to self isolate at home as a parent do the following:
- Stay in one room and have the window open when possible.
- Keep away from others as much as feasibly possible.
- Keep an eye on your temperature and your symptoms, if you start to feel worse contact you GP.
- Contact your GP or out of hours services if you have any difficulty breathing.
- Laundry – wash as high as the material can tolerate and use gloves handling dirty washing.
- Don’t share plates, utensils or cups etc with the household.
- Clean the room you are in with a disinfectant household cleaner and if you have to share a bathroom with other household members remember to let them use the bathroom first and the you can use it remembering to clean all the surfaces you have touched when you are finished including door handles and light switches.
- Wash your hands regularly and do not share a towel. Keep your towel in your room and bring it with you when you need it.
- wear a mask if anyone comes to your room with food. Only have people come to your room when essential.
- Have a bin bag in your room for used tissues etc.
- Use your phone to communicate with your carer and don’t touch anyone .
- Ask your carer to wash their hands before and after bringing you essentials.
- Waste bags contaminated with items such as used gloves, tissues etc should be quarantined somewhere, tied and secure, for three days before being put into the wheelie bin.
- For a child or baby you follow much the same guidelines but obviously this has got to come with an element of balance. You clearly cannot be expected to isolate a child who does not understand what is going on or who is too young to be capable of self care. In this circumstance you:
- Limit the number of care givers – ideally one person will look after the sick child.
- Try to limit the care to an area of the house where other members of the family can stay away from.
- Wash your hands after caring for your child, especially after cleaning a dirty nose etc. Try to avoid touching your eyes while caring for your child, something as daft as wearing your glasses or sunglasses can act as a reminder/barrier!
- Remember to clean all surfaces as frequently as you can including after your child flushes the toilet etc.
- Do not share toys between a child in isolation and other children within the household.
- Wash the child’s clothes at as high a temperature as the material can handle and use gloves when handling dirty laundry – remembering to wash your hands after you have disposed of the gloves into an allocated ‘contaminated’ bin bag that is not the households general waste.
- Wash your child’s hands as often as possible.
- Do your best – it is all you can do. Your child needs you – follow the guidance as much as you can and monitor the household for symptoms. Keep the 1-2 meter distance guideline in your mind when possible. Obviously with a young child who doesn’t understand this is not possible.
- Closely monitor your child’s symptoms if they have underlying health conditions or special needs.
- Try to get some sort of routine in place for your baby or child if they are well enough to. Keep it as close to their normal routine as possible for waking, playing, eating and sleeping.
- The HPSC recommends that if you have been the person caring for a child who requires a lot of help with daily activities, like feeding, washing or changing nappies etc and they are confirmed as covid positive then you need to restrict your movements for 28 days from when they first showed symptoms.
HSE Advice – If your child moves between homes
‘Your child may usually move between homes during the week. But it’s best if they stay in one home as much as possible. This is at least while the stay at home measures remain in place.
If anyone in the home has symptoms while your child is there, your child will need to restrict their movements. They’ll need to stay in that home.
Court orders in relation to access, maintenance and guardianship have not changed. They should still be followed.
But talk with your child’s other parent. You or your legal advisers may be able to agree an arrangement so that your child can stay in one home for now to keep them safe. This could involve using technology like video calls. If you cannot agree on an arrangement, you could use a mediation service.’
How to explain the Coronavirus to kids?
I’m a great believer in honesty. Age appropriate honesty. The truth rarely comes back to bite you. Saying that I don’t think a three year old needs to know the daily number of deaths or ICU bed admissions!! Making changes work, as a family, rely on everyone being on the same page. If your kids know roughly what is going on you can help to calm their fears and address hidden anxieties by starting the conversation and allowing them to ask questions. Keep your answers honest but gentle, our children will feel better knowing that this is a situation that is unusual for us all, that this is not normal and that we are a little weirded out by it too! We reassure them that we are safe following the Governments guidelines but by teaching them why we can’t see Mamo (granny in our house – hope she’s not reading this as she hates that word!!) or their little friends means that they are not left confused and hurt by us keeping our distance. If you are a healthcare worker explain to them that you are being protected at work by masks and gloves or whatever else you use. Don’t let them hear all of your worries but acknowledging the situation is helpful. I am not a child counsellor. I am sharing my experience which may well be unique to my own children. Follow you child’s lead, some like a big conversation filled with questions, whereas some kids can only handle bite size pieces of information at any one time. Giving them opportunity to talk is key. My kids see me come home tired and frazzled and hear me say ‘stay away until I’ve had a shower and changed my clothes’, it has become the new normal, they understand why and so they accept it. Once I’m clean I, of course, hug them and show them I’m still here for them and nothing to be afraid of, but it shows them that grown ups also have to do our bit and they can do it too by washing their hands. This cartoon is a great way to start conversations with young kids.
We are all sick about hearing things like ‘wash your hands’ and honestly I’m driven demented myself at home from saying it! This link from brainpop has useful ways to demonstrate the importance of proper hand washing and there’s a few activities which may kill a bit more time!!
Never underestimate the power of your child’s emotions. They can seem so breezy and chilled yet have the deepest little worries in their hearts. Talking helps to identify their worries and many can be improved with a simple explanation. There’s a nice bit on the ChildLine page which talks about feelings and emotions, and even to read it as a parent gives you perspective of how your child might be feeling and how you may be able to help them through casual chat during play.
I was going to speak a little about working from home – but apparently I have to go play “pharmacy” in the garden now….as if it isn’t enough to do it in “real life” at the moment…but….desperate times…desperate measures…and if it keeps the kids happy for another half hour then I’m in!!
I’ll write more again soon, and in the meanwhile stay safe and stay home!
Some services we are offering at the moment on WonderBaba are:
- The online sale of medicines such as calpol and nurofen etc
- The sale of surgical masks
- The sale of Hand Sanitiser
- Respiratory health products such as Salin Salt therapy device and filters, nebulisers, pulse oximeters etc.
Oh – I almost forgot! A special shout out to all of the muinteoiri working from home keeping our kids busy – My own kids are lucky enough to have fantastic teachers and a really supportive school.
Also of course the lovely crew from the RTE Home School Hub – Cliona, Ray and John! I’m literally living for 11 O’clock when I’m not in the Pharmacy!
I hope you have found this article helpful and if you have any questions at all please don’t hesitate to contact me by sending a private message to the WonderBaba facebook page or my website contact page or by calling me (Sheena) at Milltown totalhealth Pharmacy in Dublin 6 on 012600262.