Duke Health's new monthly "Ask the Expert" online series features Duke Health providers addressing timely health and wellness topics. The first session focused on parents' questions about children returning to in-person learning in school, how to prepare for this year’s cold and flu season, scheduling vaccinations, and well-child visits. Here’s a summary of the first ask-the-expert session.
Follow the Three Ws
According to Duke University Hospital President Thomas Owens, MD, observing the three Ws is the most effective way to keep you and your loved ones safe:
- Wear a mask that covers your nose and mouth.
- Wait six feet apart from others.
- Wash your hands or use hand sanitizer frequently.
Get Vaccinated Against the Flu
While COVID-19 continues to spread, “now is the right time to get your flu vaccine,” said Dr. Owens. It can take up to two weeks to develop an immune response after receiving a vaccine, so getting it as soon as possible (if you haven’t already) is highly recommended.
Heading Back to Class
As children return to in-person learning, Ibukun Akinboyo, MD, a Duke pediatric infectious diseases specialist, said she's been impressed with school districts' dedication to having a set protocol that includes COVID-19 restrictions. "The ABC Science Collaborative is helping schools interpret and work with the NC Department of Health and Human Services to incorporate CDC recommendations into their plans.”
If your child is returning to school, Dr. Akinboyo said it’s important that you understand the risk factors unique to your family. Make a plan for how you will handle any potential exposure or illness.
How Much Screen Time Is Too Much?
Prior to COVID-19, parents were encouraged to limit children’s screen time in favor of more physical activity and personal connection. Now that physical distancing has become the norm and school and social activities have become virtual, parents wonder if additional screen time – such as video games or television – should be avoided.
Duke pediatrician Kitty O’Hare, MD encourages "families to relax some of their earlier thoughts about screen time but to also keep in mind that we still need time to exercise and time for imaginative play in our day.”
Stay Up-to-Date on Vaccinations and Well Checkups
Wellness checkups and preventive vaccinations have been on the decline among adults and children during the pandemic. Despite widespread concerns about venturing into public spaces, it is important to maintain this care, especially for children, said Carolyn S. Avery, MD, MHS, a Duke Health pediatrician and internal medicine doctor.
“A lot of things go on behind the scenes during pediatric well visits, like monitoring a child’s growth and development,” she said. “Routine screenings sometimes pick up things that might not otherwise have been identified. We also use these times to ask our families about any difficulties they may be having with things like paying for food, rent, or utilities. We’re very closely tied with our community and available resources that families may not have heard of, and we want to help with that.”
Safety precautions are in place at all Duke Health hospitals and clinics to keep everyone safe and protected from possible exposure to COVID-19 during appointments, surgeries, and procedures.
Celebrating Halloween Safely
With Halloween quickly approaching, Dr. O’Hare said you can still make it fun and safe for your kids. “Wear your regular face mask if you’re around other people. Consider activities like a virtual costume parade, an outdoor scary movie, and pumpkin decorating. There’s a lot we can do to celebrate the season in a safe way.”