Why Are Social Distancing Kids Still Getting Sick?

“Why are my kids still getting sick if they have been out of school and haven’t left the house for weeks?

The first thought of some parents and pediatric providers upon reading this might be, wait, what, kids are still getting sick?

At least at my office, the number of calls from concerned parents about their children being sick is certainly a lot lower than normal. But there is still a steady stream of incoming calls about coughs, vomiting, diarrhea, ear pain, rashes and all the usual suspects.

It does seem that in addition to flattening the curve, staying home from school and daycare, washing hands, and general social distancing techniques has worked to keeps the majority of children from getting sick with many of the common viruses.

So while many pediatric providers are available to do telemedicine appointments, it certainly isn’t business as usual.

Some kids are still getting sick though, and while we know what you are thinking, most probably don’t have the scary C word.

Why are they still getting sick then?

The simple answer, in general, is that almost no one is truly and fully quarantining.  Most people are still ordering from amazon, going out for walks, ordering food, etc.  I imagine you have eaten food lately and you probably have had something to drink.  Someone touched your produce.  Some prepared your takeout.  Even if you took all the proper precautions, there is always a small risk of catching something.

You would need to move to the middle of the mountains or live in a bubble to be totally isolated.  That is why children with severe immune deficiencies actually may need to live in “a bubble”.

Let’s break it down a little further. Some of the top reasons for still getting sick are…

  1. The kids aren’t social distancing as well as they think they are.
  2. They caught something from a parent or family member who was recently sick.
  3. They touched something like food or a drink that was previously touched by someone sick.
  4. Parents who have ventured into the world for groceries may have picked something up on their clothes or other items they brought home which was subsequently touched by a child.
  5. They caught something from someone who had a disease a few weeks or even months ago and is still shedding. For example, some infants can shed RSV, Hand foot and mouth or parainfluenza for a long time after they are already better.
  6. Their symptoms are not infections but have another cause. Maybe the sore throat is reflux or allergies.
  7. It is also possible that their symptoms are being caused by stress or anxiety.

In conclusion, you should not be surprised if your child still gets sick during safer at home.  Viruses are impressive little bugs and still have ways to get you sick.

Though on the positive side, we have seen the number of viral infections other than the big C drop by a fair margin so we know that hand washing and general precautions are good advice to follow moving forward to keep your family safe in general and there are many ways to “kill” a virus.

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