A Chicago pediatrician answers your questions about coronavirus

Written by: Laura Baginski

A Chicago pediatrician answers parent questions about coronavirus.

Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels

Like many people around the world, our parent members have countless questions about COVID-19, an illness caused by a new coronavirus strain that has led to thousands of deaths worldwide and spurred the cancelation of major events such as South by Southwest in Austin and trade shows in Chicago—not to mention some area schools. Parents hoping to find information to keep their families safe posted questions on the NPN discussion forum for Anita Chandra-Puri, MD, a Chicago pediatrician, mom and NPN board member. She answers them below.

Q. My youngest's kindergarten class has a field trip to a Chicago museum coming up, but one of the pieces of advice out there right now is to avoid crowded places. Is it being paranoid to question the field trip?

A: Right now the best advice we have is to encourage your children to wash their hands well.  Keep them home and away from other people if they have obvious signs of illness. Your schools are taking their guidance from the CDC and the Illinois Department of Public Health so I would trust they are making the best decision for their school attendees.

Q: Let's say you had a kid show up in your office right now with flulike symptoms. If they tested negative for the flu would you be able to get your hands on a COVID-19 test right now? 

A: Currently we cannot test anyone for COVID-19 unless they meet specific criteria for being a person under investigation - primarily exposure due to travel issues or known contacts with COVID-19.  Commercial testing isn't available yet.

Q: Should we avoid large crowds in general?  

A: The most important thing is good hand hygiene, attention to your own health, hydration and rest and social distancing  - the same we would recommend at this time of year for all viral respiratory illnesses. The recommendations for social distancing are stronger for the age group above 60 years old.

Q: Why are countries shutting down schools when kids don't get this? 

Children can get the coronavirus but they aren't seeming to get as sick from the infection.  In many cases they are asymptomatic. But they will still shed the virus and spread it amongst their classmates and family members. So in locations where they are shutting down schools, it is more to control the spread of infection.

Q: If my husband and I both get sick, can we ship our kids off to someone else, or will our kids spread the virus even if they aren't sick?   

Children can spread the virus even if they are asymptomatic. So, unfortunately sending your children to other family members may still spread the infection. Best to quarantine you all together unless you can verify your children do not have the infection.

Q: I'm getting on a cruise in 3 weeks, unless it's cancelled (too much money on the line). Am I crazy?   

A: As of Sunday, the CDC recommends avoiding all cruise ship travel worldwide: https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/page/covid-19-cruise-ship.

Chicago parents are lighting up the NPN discussion forum with questions, information and advice about coronavirus, from spring break travel to the dearth of hand sanitizer in Chicago stores. Join the conversation. And consult the CDC website for updates on the virus.


Posted on March 09, 2020 at 10:40 AM