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Coronavirus pandemic means social distancing — it doesn’t mean you can’t hug your kids

Answering kids’ COVID-19 questions
WATCH: Answering kids’ COVID-19 questions

The outbreak of the novel coronavirus has required people to stay indoors and practise physical distancing, but is it OK for parents to cuddle their children?

In many cases, yes.

If you live in the same home and are not exhibiting any symptoms, you can “definitely share the same space with your kids,” said Dr. Margaret Quinn, a clinical associate professor at the Rutgers School of Nursing and director of the pediatric nurse practitioner program.

READ MORE: How COVID-19 is spreading across Canada

“In general, if the household is healthy… and everyone’s home together — parents are working from home and kids are home from school — then yes, they can sit on the couch together and have that hug and cuddle,” she said.

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“Kids right now need their parents — and they need a good cuddle.”

The important thing to keep in mind, however, is that families need to practise good hygiene to curb the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus. This includes frequent handwashing, not sharing food or utensils and using your own towels and pillowcases.

How to properly wash your hands
How to properly wash your hands

“Those are basic infection control measures, whatever the illness or the outbreak,” Quinn said.

“I tell parents that all the time: they really should not be sharing drinks and food.”

What if you’re in self-isolation?

If you’re self-isolating due to recent travel or possible exposure, or if you have COVID-19 symptoms, you should not cuddle or kiss anyone in your household.

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If you have tested positive for COVID-19, you should also physically keep your distance from your family members. Health Canada says anyone who is sick should stay in a separate room or keep a two-metre distance from others.

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READ MORE: Will homemade masks protect us from the coronavirus?

“If the parent is showing symptoms of any illness, whether it be a sore throat, a common cold or they may be positive for COVID-19, that’s not the time to be snuggling with your kid,” Quinn said.

If a child is sick, Quinn said health precautions still need to be taken.

“Whether it’s COVID-19 or strep throat, if a child has an illness… of course there’s a risk to other people in the house,” she said.

“Practise handwashing, no sharing of [personal] things and no sleeping in the same bed when the child or the parent is sick.”
How parents can cope with kids at home during COVID-19 outbreak
How parents can cope with kids at home during COVID-19 outbreak

Health Canada says “children who have mild COVID-19 symptoms are able to stay at home with a caregiver throughout their recovery without needing hospitalization.”

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“If you are caring for a child who has suspected or probable COVID-19, it is important to follow the advice for caregivers,” the government agency stresses.

How does coronavirus affect kids?

In Ontario, at least 68 people under the age of 19 have tested positive for COVID-19, according to the most recent Health Canada data.

This includes an earlier case of a baby boy in early March, who health officials said is under the age of one and listed as having contracted the coronavirus through close contact.

READ MORE: How to talk to kids about the novel coronavirus without scaring them

Previous research suggests children may be less affected by COVID-19, or if they are infected, they may not exhibit symptoms.

This means that a child’s infection could go undetected, possibly spreading the virus to more at-risk adults.

To prevent possible transmission, everyone — including kids — need to wash their hands and not touch their faces, Quinn said. Adults need to model this behaviour to their children.

Protecting children during the COVID-19 outbreak
Protecting children during the COVID-19 outbreak

“Using reasonable precautions in the house is what we have to promote to kids and acknowledge that this is a tough time for them as well,” she said.

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“We have to be thankful for what we have with them. And if they’re home with us and making us crazy, that’s OK; we have to stay healthy as a family. That’s important.”

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are legally obligated to self-isolate for 14 days, beginning March 26, in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others. Some provinces and territories have also implemented additional recommendations or enforcement measures to ensure those returning to the area self-isolate.

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.

Laura.Hensley@globalnews.ca

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