Like most parents, Paula Schuck is facing a whole new set of challenges due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Besides the added stress of caring for a special needs child, the 52-year-old Canadian mother and writer says the pandemic has also taken a mental toll on her two teenage daughters.
Schuck said the mental toll took the forms of depression, grief and anxiety.
“It’s been hard and there’s been a lot of discord and many, many conversations with them,” Schuck, a resident of London, Ont., told Global News.
“We’re trying to be extremely safe within the house, not sharing utensils, washing our hands a lot more than we probably ever used to.”
With many schools now open and conducting in-person classes across different provinces, there is some form of normality back into children’s lives, but that has also presented risks, adding to the anxiety for many parents.
In Quebec, for instance, since schools reopened at the end of August, there have been more than 10,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus among staff and students.
According to official data from the province, as of Nov. 24, there are 2,780 active cases of the coronavirus among students and 637 among staff members.
Meanwhile, a troubling report by Children First Canada released in September showed that Canadian children are overall less safe and healthy than before the pandemic began.
A new study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ) this week found more than one-third of Alberta’s children who tested positive for COVID-19 were asymptomatic.
Among those who did show symptoms, the most predictive signs of the illness were a loss of taste or smell, nausea or vomiting, headache and fever, the research revealed.
Other flu-like symptoms — cough, sore throat and runny nose — were commonly found in both COVID-19 positive and negative cases.
Dr. Anna Banerji, a pediatrician and infectious disease specialist at the University of Toronto, said while most young children and teenagers experience mild symptoms, there is concern they’re not getting tested enough and in turn spreading the virus in the community.
“Also what happens is that they bring it home and then the parents get sick with the more typical kind of COVID symptoms,” she added.
Dr. Earl Rubin, division director for pediatric infectious diseases at Montreal Children’s Hospital of MUHC, said it is imperative that a symptomatic child who is going to daycare or school get tested so that public health officials could intervene with the appropriate measures.
According to government guidelines, children who have COVID-19 with mild symptoms can stay at home with a caregiver throughout their recovery without needing hospitalization.
Banerji said regardless of a test result, if your child is sick with any nuancing symptoms, they should stay at home for at least a week.
However, complete isolation from family members remains a challenge.
“It’s hard because when a kid is sick, it’s usually the parents that takes care of them. And so I think it’s challenging to isolate a kid at home away from the family members,” Banerji said.
The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) has issued a set of guidelines for parents and caregivers attending to a child with COVID-19:
- Keep the child at home or in a monitored outdoor space.
- No sharing of food, drinks and personal items, like toothbrushes, towels, linens, utensils and electronic devices
- If possible, use separate bathrooms.
- Prevent contact with pets
In all cases, children should keep physical distancing from elderly grandparents or family members that have underlying health conditions, as they are most vulnerable to severe illness, Banerji advised.
“You want to distance, wear a mask and do good handwashing,” Rubin added. “And the difference in the house is you want to have your own bathroom or wipe down the faucets, the high touch areas of a common space.”
In Schuck’s home, the family has imposed some rules to keep everyone safe.
That means no dating or hanging out with friends.
“They’re teenage girls, they want to still meet people and hang out. And three quarters of their friends are still doing that, which is the hard part.”