Bracho-Sanchez is a pediatrician at Columbia University in New York and a mother of a 14-month-old son who had to be taken to hospital earlier this year to be treated for pneumonia after suffering a viral illness.
“It was really, really scary,” Bracho-Sanchez told ‘Good Morning America’ of his son William’s illness, from which he eventually recovered. “So in addition to being in contact with my patients, of course, as a pediatrician, I’m currently in contact with a mother who saw her own child fall ill and develop a complication of a viral illness this season.”
Currently, 44 US states as well as New York, Washington, DC and Puerto Rico are reporting “very high” or “high” levels of flu-like activity, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released last week.
The ever-higher rates of influenza, RSV and COVID-19 come at a time when children tend to be indoors more often due to colder weather, and families tend to be busy with school activities and holiday gatherings.
Bracho-Sanchez said her son was attending daycare and they were hoping to reunite with their family for Christmas, so she is now taking extra precautions to help prevent the illness.
“As a mom right now, I feel so out of control,” Bracho-Sanchez said. “But I try to prevent the things that I can prevent.”
Here are six steps Bracho-Sanchez said she’s taking to help protect her son’s health amid the “triple outbreak.”
1. Keep up to date with vaccinations: Bracho-Sanchez said her son had been vaccinated against COVID-19 and the flu, which she recommends for all children 6 months and older.
“I have peace of mind knowing that even if he is exposed to either of these diseases, he is much less likely to develop serious complications because I vaccinated him,” a- she declared. “I trust vaccines. They are safe.”
Children 6 months and older are eligible to receive a flu shot as well as a COVID-19 vaccine, with “rare exceptions,” according to the CDC. Both vaccines are free and widely available at local doctors’ offices and pharmacies.
Bracho-Sanchez said it’s safe for children to get flu shots and COVID-19 shots at the same time.
She also said it was important that adult caregivers and relatives of children also get flu and COVID-19 vaccines.
2. Monitor symptoms: Bracho-Sanchez said it’s a reality that most kids will develop at least one cold this season, and most will recover at home and have no lingering complications.
There are times, as Bracho-Sanchez said, that a child needs extra medical help, so she said she continues to monitor these symptoms in her own son.
These symptoms include dehydration, a fever that lasts three or more days and a child who is worsening or has respiratory distress, according to Bracho-Sanchez.
“A child who is breathing fast or looks like they are having trouble breathing, like they have to work so hard to breathe, that’s a sign to get help,” a- she declared. “And any child who was better at home and all of a sudden seems to be getting worse, the fevers were gone and now they’re coming back, or they’d kinda woken up, and all of a sudden they really seem like they’re not acting like themselves, he’s a kid that needs to be seen as soon as possible.”
3. Limit indoor gatherings: Bracho-Sanchez said she limits indoor parties and gatherings that she, her husband and son attend to those that are “really meaningful.”
“We want to see family over the holidays. Our family is getting vaccinated and we won’t be canceling these gatherings,” she said. “But maybe things that make less sense to us, we’ll skip this season.”
She continued: “We always go to the playgrounds. We always have outdoor play dates when we can, when the weather allows it, because he is still a child and it is important for us to live our life. life as best we can and prioritize the things that matter to us.”
4. Wear face masks: Bracho-Sanchez said she and her husband continue to wear face masks when in crowded indoor spaces, even though they are no longer required.
“It doesn’t hurt and it can actually give you some protection,” she said of wearing a mask in crowded spaces. “Children more [age] 2 do really well with masks if you teach them and normalize it for them. »
The American Academy of Pediatrics advises that face masks should not be worn by children under 2 years of age. She recommends that face masks be worn by multiple groups of people, including those over age 2 who have not been vaccinated against COVID-19 and by families with babies under age 2. 6 months who cannot be vaccinated.
5. Staying home when sick: Bracho-Sanchez said that if her son has cold or flu symptoms like fever, runny nose or cough, she will keep him home from daycare to help prevent the spread of germs.
“I know a lot of us missed work, had to cancel other activities when our kids got sick from so many colds,” she said. “But as best we can, let’s keep them home if they’re sick.”
6. Wash your hands: Bracho-Sanchez said she encourages families, including hers, to continue the good handwashing habits that so many have developed during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Handwashing can absolutely help us prevent COVID-19, the flu, RSV and so many other things that are going around right now,” she said. “So absolutely keep washing your hands, keep sanitizing your hands when you don’t have access to a sink, and let’s keep teaching and getting our kids into this habit.”
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