Parents of children who are immunocompromised or have pre-existing conditions are understandably worried about the current risk of Coronavirus. Our senior staff at PCH who oversee infectious diseases, respiratory, oncology and immunology have developed the following FAQs for our families and patients.
How might coronavirus affect my child who is immunocompromised (i.e. undergoing cancer treatment) or has a pre-existing health condition (i.e. a heart or lung condition like cystic fibrosis)?
What we currently know is that COVID-19 infection in children appears to be milder than in adults.However, children who are undergoing treatment for cancer or have pre-existing health conditions may be more susceptible which makes it harder to fight off infections such as COVID-19.
Families who have children that fit these criteria need to take steps to protect themselves where possible.
What should we do to protect our children and ourselves?
Children and young people who are at risk should following the infection control procedures that they usually would use. These are the same infection control measures that we are asking the community to follow:
Washing your hands
Frequently washing your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water, or using an alcohol-based hand gel. Here’s how to wash your hands properly.
Try not to touch your mouth and nose
If you need to cough or sneeze, cover your nose and mouth with a paper tissue or flexed elbow – throw the tissue immediately after use and wash your hands.
Stay away from people who are sick
Avoid close contact with anyone if you, or they, have a cold or flu-like symptoms (maintain a distance of at least one metre).
Should we be wearing face masks to protect ourselves from infection?
You do not need to wear a mask if you are healthy. While the use of masks can help prevent transmission of disease from infected patients to others, masks are not currently recommended for use by healthy members of the public for the prevention of infections like Coronavirus.
Children in higher risk categories should only use masks if this is part of their usual prescribed practice when attending outpatient appointments.
It’s also useful to know that face masks must be worn correctly, changed frequently, removed properly and disposed of safely for them to be effective.
What should I do if my child becomes unwell and has symptoms of Coronavirus?
The symptoms of COVID-19 include fever with acute respiratory symptoms including cough, sore throat and breathlessness.
If your child develops these symptoms and they have returned from overseas in the last 14 days or had close contact with someone who has been diagnosed with Coronavirus, please seek medical attention, either through your child’s treating team or GP.
If your child has not travelled overseas or has not been in close contact with someone who has been tested and diagnosed with Coronavirus in the past 14 days and yet you are still concerned, discuss with your child’s treating team or call your GP.
What should I do if my child develops a fever or any other symptoms?
You should follow the usual process for going to hospital if your child has a fever or is unwell. You will be assessed and treated in the same way as usual.
If you are concerned that your child has symptoms of COVID-19 or has a known COVID-19 contact, it is essential that you inform the treating hospital before your arrival so necessary arrangements can be made. Please call your treating team before arrival.
Specific contact details are included below.
Will supply of my child’s medications be affected by COVID-19?
We have been looking at our supply chains to ensure a secure supply of necessary drugs. Currently there are no shortages linked to Coronavirus and no drug manufacturers have said they expect problems with supply due to Coronavirus.
Please do not stop your child’s regular medications. They should continue their regular treatment including immunosuppressive medications unless directed otherwise by their treating team.
What about vaccinations?
We recommend that people continue to receive their normal vaccinations, and strongly advise that families receive the influenza vaccine when it becomes available.
What about people visiting my child in hospital?
As is usual practice, any visitors who are unwell or who have any symptoms should not visit the hospital.
All visitors should be reminded to wash their hands frequently with soap and water or use hand sanitizer.
Please note that restrictions on the number of visitors aside from parents are expected to change very soon.
Should we cancel my child’s treatment or outpatient appointments at the hospital?
Outpatient clinics are proceeding as scheduled at this stage. For some patients, the health of your child may be compromised if they do not attend or you defer your outpatient appointments.
The only parents who are currently recommended to reschedule an outpatient appointment are those that need to be quarantined at home. These children are those who:
If your child has symptoms of fever, runny nose, sore throat or cough, we recommend that you reschedule your non-urgent appointments until your child is better.
There may be other ways of attending your outpatient appointment. Some outpatient departments are contacting families to organise alternative ways of attending your appointment including telephone or videoconference appointments (Telehealth). They will be in contact with you directly prior to your appointment if this is suitable for your child.
If you are concerned about attending outpatient clinics in person, please feel free to discuss this option with your treating team.
If you do intend to change or cancel your appointment, please call the number on the bottom of your outpatient letter, or Outpatient Direct on 1300 855 275.
What about the risk to my child of other patients who has suspected Coronavirus in hospital?
We have strict infection control and testing procedures in place to protect all our patients, families and our staff.
While we currently don’t have any patients with Coronavirus, any future cases will be isolated. Any equipment or staff who come into contact with patients who have confirmed or suspected Coronavirus will wear protective equipment and follow strict infection control procedures.
Your safety and the safety of our community is our top priority.
Can my child go to school?
Currently children who are immune suppressed or have pre-existing health conditions are encouraged to go to school if they are well.
This advice may change, so please check with your child’s school.
Can my child go to public events, sports or play dates?
COVID-19 spreads through close sustained contact with someone who has the virus (for instance being within one metre of someone for longer than 15 minutes).
Currently large events over 500 people are banned in Australia. You should reconsider attending other large public gatherings. Smaller public events are at your discretion however avoiding unwell contacts is recommended.
If there is further community transmission of the virus, the Department of Health may advise that people temporarily limit socialising in public places.
Please speak to your child’s consultant or any member of the team in your treating team.