Most school districts across the Oklahoma City metro welcomed students back to the classroom.
As the number of COVID-19 cases continue to rise statewide, an Oklahoma City pediatrician is providing parents with advice on helping children understand germs and prevent spreading them to others.
Kids are apt to explore the world around them, and as parents know, it can often be described as gross. Whether it’s putting objects in their mouth, wiping their noses or getting their hands dirty, germs often are not taken into consideration.
“We don't need to be afraid of our world, or our environment at all, but right now when there are some scary germs out there, we can help them be a little more vigilant about just keeping their own germs to themselves,” Just Kids Pediatrics associate medical director Dr. Jordan Pope said.
Dr. Pope said the first step in increasing that vigilance is helping kids understand what germs are through fun, easy ways to remember.
“We kind of explain germs at home as these invisible, bad guys that we all have inside of us and sometimes make us not feel good,” Dr. Pope said.
Parents can then help instill proper habits and hygiene like covering the mouth during a cough or sneeze and hand washing. Dr. Pope said it’s important to catch kids doing the right thing and provide positive reinforcement.
Dr. Pope also points out that kids will be kids, and exposure to germs helps them develop their immune system. During a pandemic, however, finding a balance can be difficult.
“That line is hazy and that line is moving,” Dr. Pope said. “That line has changed from March 2020 until now.”
Dr. Pope believes the threat of COVID-19 is so severe that isolation and other precautions were necessary means to an end but also left many immune systems unpracticed.
“We are absolutely seeing the repercussions of this now with this sort of surge of other respiratory viruses like RSV and even influenza all summer long,” Dr. Pope said. “We don't normally see that this time of year.”
While she doesn’t think there has been an overcorrection, Dr. Pope encourages parents to continue looking for the balance between normal exposure to germs and potentially dangerous spread.
“There is a difference in playing in dirt and eating dirt,” Dr. Pope said.
Dr. Pope added that kids are smart and naturally altruistic. If parents explain how they can keep their friends and family from getting sick, she believes kids will be willing to help.
“Lots of gentle reminders and positive praise when kids are doing the right thing goes a long way,” Dr. Pope said.