Back-to-School FAQs

8/19/2022 at 3:03 PM

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As a parent, you have questions about how to keep your student safe. We've compiled the questions we're asked the most about safety in schools, public transportation, stress, vaccines, physicals and preventing injuries while sitting at a computer or desk.

We've broken these into the following categories: 

Safety While at School

Bus and Transportation

Stress/Anxiety

COVID-19 Vaccines, School Physicals and Well Exams

Ergonomics

Scroll to see the questions then click on the plus sign for the answers.

Safety While At School

Back to School FAQs - Safety at School

LVHN recommends following Pennsylvania Department of Health face mask guidelines which are in compliance with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance. CDC guidance recommends universal masking based on regional transmission data regardless of vaccination status. All counties in our area currently are experiencing “high” spread of COVID-19 transmission.

RESOURCES

CDC school guidance: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/schools-childcare/k-12-guidance.html
CDC transmission map: https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#datatracker-home

Pa. Governor news release: https://www.governor.pa.gov/newsroom/wolf-administration-requires-masking-in-schools-early-learning-and-child-care-settings-to-keep-students-safely-in-classrooms-and-delta-variant-out/

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Face masks will not be needed when the Pennsylvania Department of Health order is lifted, which may be when the transmission rate is low. Low transmission is defined through one of these criteria:

  • <10 new cases per 100,000 in the last seven days
  • <5% of tests are positive in the last seven days.

RESOURCES

CDC transmission map: https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#datatracker-home

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LVHN also encourages schools to have mask breaks in a socially distanced way. In most circumstances, masks are not necessary when outdoors.

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Studies have shown that masks are safe and effective in children over age 2. One of the most important things when it comes to kids and masks is making sure a mask fits the child well. A mask should be snug and cover both the nose and mouth.

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Cloth masks are effective but need to be replaced after frequent washing. It is important to look at face masks after each wash to make sure the fabric isn’t wearing thin. If it is, the mask should be replaced.

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Because the delta variant is more infectious and spreads more easily, there is a concern that children will be able to spread the virus more. Data so far suggests that while more kids are getting the delta variant because it is more contagious, they aren’t getting sicker, and the percentage of children requiring hospitalization due to COVID-19 has not increased with the delta variant.

However, parents should be mindful of a complication called multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C). MIS-C is a relatively rare condition that can develop two to six weeks after the COVID-19 infection subsides. Learn more about MIS-C at the CDC: https://www.cdc.gov/mis/mis-c.html

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In addition to websites like LVHN.org, look at reputable websites like healthychildren.org, which is run by the American Academy of Pediatrics, or CDC.gov. It is important for children to recognize there is a lot of misinformation, but they can stop the spread of that misinformation.

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LVHN encourages increasing ventilation in schools. Also, people who are ill are reminded to stay home.

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We’re still learning about the novel coronavirus and being cautious is prudent. We believe face masks, social distancing, handwashing and staying home if ill are the most important measures to take; however there are other factors to consider when preventing spread of this virus. Cleaning surfaces is certainly one of them.

Supplies, lunch bags and shoes may be sources of high-touch, high-risk contact. We must consider cleaning these items, but how often and how?

Backpacks and lunch bags: Wipe these down upon arrival at home daily with a disinfectant if a smooth or “non fabric” surface. If fabric, spray with a disinfectant spray such as Lysol. Also wash cloth items once a week.

Shoes: Children ought to remove their shoes prior to coming into the house. Spraying their footwear daily with disinfectant may be prudent.

When possible, have a pair of shoes primarily for school use. This may help reduce transmission of germs in and out of the house.

School supplies: Make sure kids are using their own items, and items that get taken to and from school should be wiped down daily. Remind children not to put pencils and other items in their mouth or near their mouth.

Remind children not to take things from others, and if sharing is needed, to wipe down the items prior to use if possible.  It is a good idea to encourage regular hand washing or use of hand sanitizer throughout the school day

Face masks: Fabric face masks should be washed daily after use. Remind your children to only take their mask off when advised, and to adjust it by the ear straps and not grab where the mouth/nose is. If a cloth mask looks worn or thinned, consider replacing it.

Wintertime items (coats, mittens, hats, scarves): Wipe/spray coat daily and wash products every other day if contact with high-touch surfaces. Consider washing items in the washing machine once a week if appropriate.

Hand sanitizer: Allow children to keep a small hand sanitizer in their backpacks/desks. Teach them how to properly use this product.

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The most important aspects concerning effectiveness of a mask are fit and fabric.

  • Fit – Your child’s mask should fit snugly against her or his face and cover the nose and mouth. A snug fit keeps the mask from slipping and helps reduce the temptation to touch the mask throughout the day. A proper fit also means less of your child’s respiratory droplets will enter the air. This is important to help reduce the spread of the coronavirus. Since face shields do not fit snugly against the face, they should always be worn with a mask.
  • Fabric ­­­– Mask fabric should be at least two-ply and made of a breathable fabric that is not sheer. Masks should not be vented because the vent does not filter exhaled air and allows germs to travel into the air that others breathe.

Tip: Remember – wearing a mask is only one piece of the puzzle. Keep your child home from school when feeling sick, encourage him or her to practice frequent hand washing and remind your child to keep distanced from others when possible.

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Bus and Transportation

Carpools can be an important transportation option for families as kids head back to school and activities. Here are some steps you can take to optimize safety while carpooling:

  • Keep a consistent carpool group to minimize potential exposures to illness.
  • Talk with the other families in the carpool about what steps you are taking to protect yourselves from illness in your daily lives. Make sure you are all on the same page.
  • Mask up while in the car!
  • Seat passengers as far apart as the vehicle will allow.
  • Roll the windows down (weather permitting) to keep fresh air circulating through the car.

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For riding on a school bus, here are three important reminders that you can share with your child to help him or her limit (and prevent) contact with germs that cause illness:

  1. Wear your face mask: Remind your child to keep his or her face mask on the entire ride and not to touch it.
  2. Watch what you touch: Remind your child to not touch the seat in front of him or her. There may be germs on the seat and limiting what is touched is always good.
  3. Keep your hands clean: Have hand sanitizer in your child's backpack that can be put on after riding the bus.

Tip: Remind your child to avoid touching his or her face with unwashed hands, especially the mouth, eyes and nose.

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Stress/Anxiety

Back to School Stress and Anxiety

You can help kids cope with back-to-school stress in a healthy manner. 

  • Acknowledge the impact of the pandemic and the toll it has taken on everyone. 
  • Set kids up for success by helping them understand what is within our control.
  • Maintain connections with your child by keeping open lines of communication. 
  • Involve supportive services (school personnel, physicians, etc.) when you need them.

Read more about helping your child cope with COVID-19 related anxiety.

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When it comes to talking to teens, keep your conversation informal. One of the best ways to get teens to open up and talk is when you are doing an activity together you enjoy. Some examples would be cooking a meal together, practicing a sport or hobby, or even just taking a drive where you can be alone and talk.

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Concerns kids have about getting sick are legitimate and should always be acknowledged. As a parent, you can share safety measures that can help prevent COVID-19 like masking, good hand hygiene and social distancing. The best protection against COVID-19 is getting vaccinated, so if your child is six months old or older, get them signed up for their first dose today.

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During this time of uncertainty, it is important to understand that feeling anxiety is normal.  Anxiety is our body’s automatic fight-or-flight response that is triggered when we feel threatened, under pressure or are facing a challenging situation.

As children go back to school, there are several steps family members can take to help reduce their anxiety:

Listen carefully to your children. Children give off verbal and non-verbal cues about their anxiety levels. Pay attention to these cues. Children can convey anxiety and emotional suffering in different ways. It can emerge more as decreased tolerance, increased frustration, isolation and tantrums (in young kids).

When a child appears more anxious, help them to understand that it is helpful to talk about how they are feeling with an adult. Giving children a bit more latitude and time to process the many disappointments related to COVID-19 is important.

Model calm. Parents also give off verbal and non-verbal cues, which children can detect. By reinforcing a sense of calm, it will lessen a child’s anxiety. Consider engaging your children in a daily mindfulness practice like deep breathing.

Have a routine and stick to it. Predictability is reassuring to a child and having a routine can aid them in adjusting to this new normal. Inconsistent experiences may produce more emotional upset and anxiety.

Focus on stress-reduction activities. We know from science that there are some habits we can engage that increase happiness and help mitigate anxiety. These include practicing gratitude, exercising, healthy eating habits, social connection and adequate sleep.

Be kind to yourselves. There is no one right way to cope with the emotional challenges that living in the time of COVID-19 presents. Do not expect perfection of yourself or your children. Holding ourselves up to unrealistic standards can increase our anxiety. Recognizing this is a very difficult and uncertain time and accepting that emotions will run high at times will aid coping. This will pass eventually, and children and families are resilient.  It might help to talk about previous times when your family faced adversity and got through it.

Limit time on social media, and your daily intake of COVID-19 news.  The news serves a vital role in keeping us informed, but it can also propel our anxiety into a fight-or-flight feeling. It is good to be aware so that we can take specific actions needed to protect ourselves and our loved ones. However, keeping the news on throughout the day needlessly may serve to increase anxiety.

Get help. You don’t need to do this alone. If you are experiencing an escalation of anxiety, talk to a professional who can help you through this difficult time.

Encourage your children. Wear a face mask, cough into your elbow, avoid touching your face, wash your hands frequently, and stay at a distance from others as directed by adults. Taking care of yourself will help everyone to stay safe.

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There can be a variety of a reasons – including environmental, medical and psychological – that may cause a child to suddenly act more anxious or irritable. It can be challenging to determine the underlying cause. However, it is imperative to try to determine the underlying cause to target the appropriate intervention and/or treatment.  Your child’s health care provider is someone who can help understand what is happening and how to treat it.

Sometimes these symptoms can indicate an underlying anxiety disorder. Anxiety can present in children in ways that are both similar and different from adults. Like adults, a child may have social anxiety (manifesting as a fear of going to social events, for example) or generalized anxiety (displayed as concern about future events or worry over academic/athletic performance). Children may not be forthcoming about their concerns and worries for a variety of reasons, including a difficulty verbalizing their feelings, desire to be compliant, etc. Instead, a parent may see other signs, ranging from difficulty sleeping, decreased concentration, avoiding school, and physical symptoms such as frequent headaches and stomachaches.

A further discussion with your child’s health care professional is warranted if there are any concerns for the above or other changes in behavior.

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COVID-19 Vaccines, School Physicals and Well Exams

Back to School FAQs - Well Exams

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has reminded the world what it’s like to be vulnerable to a disease and the importance of vaccination. Over the past year, there's been a reported drop in childhood vaccination rates by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the CDC. This puts our communities at risk for outbreaks of preventable illnesses. Fortunately, given the thorough protective measures, medical offices are some of the safest places to visit.

Tip: If you are unsure if your child is up to date on his or her well-child care, please reach out to your child’s health care provider by phone or through the MyLVHN app.

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It is extremely important that you not delay your child’s yearly well exam during the COVID-19 pandemic. Annual exams are crucial for tracking your child’s growth and development and keeping up-to-date with recommended vaccines. In addition to those important reasons, an annual check-in with your child’s health care provider can help you and your child talk about ways to manage all of the unique challenges brought on by the pandemic itself.

You and your family have had to make significant alterations to your routine life, making it difficult at times to focus on healthy eating and physical activity. Isolation may have brought about new obstacles for those with mental health conditions as well. It is important to discuss any of these new concerns and to address chronic medical problems your child may have, such as asthma, that can increase their risk for more severe illness if they are exposed to the virus.

Our offices at LVPG Pediatrics are committed to keeping you and your child safe and healthy during your well visit. We have implemented changes to our office and check-in procedures to follow proper social distancing protocols, allow complete cleaning of rooms between patients, and we require face masks to be worn by patients age 2 years and older as well as a parent or guardian who comes to the appointment to help protect patients, their families and our staff. If you have any questions about the preventative safety measures being taken at your office, please do not hesitate to reach out to us.

Tip: Don’t delay your child’s health care. A little prevention goes a long way to reduce risk for illness or chronic conditions.

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The Pfizer vaccine has emergency use authorization (EUA) for ages 5-15 and has been proven safe and effective. The clinical trial data submitted to the Food and Drug Administration demonstrated 90 to 100 percent effectiveness at preventing disease in this age group. That is why pediatric specialists at Lehigh Valley Reilly Children’s Hospital are encouraging parents to get their children vaccinated for their safety, as well as the safety of their family. Anyone under the age of 18 must be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian to get vaccinated.

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The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Monday, Aug. 23, gave full approval to the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for those 16 and older, elevating it from emergency use authorization (EUA). It remains under EUA for those 5-15.

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Common side effects of the vaccine in adults and children are pain, redness and swelling in the arm where you received the shot, as well as fatigue, tiredness, mild headache, muscle pain, chills, fever and nausea. These side effects can affect one’s ability to do daily activities, but they should go away in a few days. In children and adolescents, these side effects may be more common with the first dose than typically seen in adults.

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You may want to give your child acetaminophen four times a day at the appropriate dosing for the first one to two days after receiving the vaccine. Please don’t give your child ibuprofen or acetaminophen before receiving the vaccine. To reduce pain and discomfort where your child got the shot, apply a cool, wet cloth to the spot on the arm where the shot was given. Drinking lots of fluids and wearing light clothing can help when there is fever. Pfizer vaccine is provided at all LVHN vaccine clinics.

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To schedule a COVID-19 vaccine for your 5-11-year-old child, log into your child’s MyLVHN account and schedule there, or call the LVHN COVID-19 Vaccine Hotline at 833-584-6283 (833-LVHN-CVD). The COVID-19 Vaccine Hotline is open Monday-Friday 8:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. (Note: Appointments are required at all LVHN COVID-19 Vaccine Clinics. We currently cannot accept walk-in requests for vaccination.)

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For children 5 or older, you have two ways to schedule an appointment (Note: Appointments are required at all LVHN COVID-19 Vaccine Clinics. We currently cannot accept walk-in requests for vaccination.)

  1. Schedule on MyLVHN, our patient portal (for ages 5 and older)
  2. Call the LVHN COVID-19 Vaccine Hotline at 833-584-6283 (833-LVHN-CVD). The COVID-19 Vaccine Hotline is open Monday-Friday 8:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m.

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Pfizer-BioNTech bivalent COVID-19 booster shots are available for children 5-17 years of age. Children 5-17 years old can receive a booster two months after the initial two-dose series is completed or two months after a prior booster.

Children previously infected with COVID-19 may wait up to three months before getting a bivalent COVID-19 booster vaccine, but at a minimum should be symptom-free and 10 days out from a positive COVID-19 test.

Boosters are provided at LVHN COVID-19 Vaccine Clinics. An appointment is required. To schedule, log in to your child’s MyLVHN account and schedule there, or call the LVHN COVID-19 Vaccine Hotline at 833-584-6283 (833-LVHN-CVD). The COVID-19 Vaccine Hotline is open Monday-Friday, 8:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m.

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Yes. Children who are immunocompromised and 5 and older can get a booster shot as early as three months after completing the two-dose COVID-19 vaccine series and receiving the third dose (additional primary dose). An appointment is required.

To schedule, log in to your child’s MyLVHN account and schedule there, or call the LVHN COVID-19 Vaccine Hotline at 833-584-6283 (833-LVHN-CVD). The COVID-19 Vaccine Hotline is open Monday-Friday, 8:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m.

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Yes. Children 5 and older who are immunocompromised are eligible for a third primary dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine 28 days after completing the two-dose vaccine series. Third primary doses are provided at LVHN COVID-19 Vaccine Clinics. An appointment is required.

To schedule, log in to your child’s MyLVHN account and schedule there, or call the LVHN COVID-19 Vaccine Hotline at 833-584-6283 (833-LVHN-CVD). The COVID-19 Vaccine Hotline is open Monday-Friday, 8:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m.

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Ergonomics

Back to School FAQs - Ergonomics

With some students attending school virtually, it’s important to create a study and home school environment that promotes healthy ergonomics – a study space that fits your student and doesn’t cause negative side effects like muscle aches/strains or even eye strain.

Tips to prevent back pain

When you work at a desk all day in a forward or slouched position, back pain or back injuries can occur. To avoid that try these suggestions:

  • Use a good chair with lumbar support in the appropriate position (6-10 inches above the seat pan). If your current chair does not meet this need, an additional lumbar pillow can be added.
  • Sit-to-stand desks allow variety in position, which can help prevent back issues. However even with a sit/stand desk, your student shouldn’t stay in the same position too long. The recommendation is 40 minutes sitting, 10 minutes standing and 10 minutes moving for each hour of seated work.

Tips to prevent neck pain

Neck pain is a frequent side effect of sitting at a desk too long, especially if the monitor isn’t properly placed. In order to prevent neck pain, try these ideas:

  • Computer monitors should be at eye level and straight in front of where your student is seated. If he or she looks down or to the side all day, it can lead to tightness on one side of the neck. Monitor risers can help put the monitor at the proper level.
  • Monitors should be approximately 18-40 inches away. Farther away can lead to protracting the neck forward or visual problems.

Tips to prevent wrist and elbow pain

With so much time being spent online, proper wrist and elbow position is important to help prevent tendon irritation and/or nerve compression. You can help prevent wrist and elbow pain by trying these suggestions:

  • When seated, your student’s arms should be at his or her side in about a 90-degree angle. Even though arm rests seem like a way to support arms, they can cause pressure to the inside of the elbow which can result in nerve compression.
  • Wrists should be in neutral position (or straight). Wrist rests, mouse pads and under-the-desk keyboard trays are available to correct any issues.

If your student starts to experience wrist, elbow, neck or back pain, it’s time to talk with their health care provider. They can provide advice on how to manage her or his pain and figure out how to relieve it.

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