Tips for Making Back to School Safer

March 25, 2021

Back-to-school preparations usually take place in the late summer or early fall. But across Southern California, preparing kids for in-person learning starts now.

Los Angeles County elementary schools have been eligible to open since Feb. 16. Middle and high schools could open later this month. Most school districts in Orange County are offering at least a hybrid version of in-person and distance learning with some providing all in-person learning at the elementary level.

After nearly a year of distance learning, some parents are eager to get their kids back into school while others are understandably hesitant. Regardless of where you stand, AltaMed has some resources for returning safely. While we’re all optimistic about the virus being under control, these planned openings could change depending on the number of infections.

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COVID-19 in Kids

It’s still unclear how many children have been infected with COVID-19 and how dangerous it is because testing has been focused on adults and those at risk for severe illnesses. There is evidence to suggest children can carry the virus just like adults and spread it to others.

It’s important to make sure kids have good habits to help prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus. That means reinforcing everyday actions like:

  • Washing hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds

  • Wearing a mask over your nose and mouth when you’re around people

  • Avoiding close contact with others, especially those who are sick

  • Covering coughs and sneezes with a tissue or the crook of an arm

If your children already practice this at home, they should have no problem doing this at school.

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Deciding if Kids Should Go Back

Schools play an important role in supporting children’s academic, emotional, social, and physical health. But the benefits of attending in-person should be weighed against the risks to the children and those at home. If a household member is at increased risk for severe illness, everyone in the house, including school-aged children, should act as if they are at increased risk.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides a tool that can help parents and guardians make an informed decision about whether or not to send their children back for in-person learning. There are checklists for assessing:

  • Household risk

  • A school’s plan for in-person learning

  • Your capacity to continue at-home learning

  • School-based services

Local Recommendations in LA and Orange County

Each school is responsible for providing a safe learning environment. The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health created a detailed framework for schools to follow before letting students back in the classroom.

Parents can also visit LA County department’s website to see which schools have been approved to open, see case rates by school district, and review the county’s reopening requirements. Knowing these steps can provide some peace of mind.

The Orange County Health Care Agency has a page dedicated to COVID-19 information including guidance for school administrators and information for schools and youth sports. Several school districts in the county have tracking apps on their websites where parents can see the case counts for students, staff, and vendors.&

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A New Routine

Some things won’t change if you decide to send your children back to school. You will want to make sure the school has your current contact information in case of an emergency, and kids need to be current on all their vaccinations.

But there will also be some new things to consider. You should:

  • Check children for signs of illness every day, especially a fever over 100.4, cough, diarrhea, vomiting, or body aches.

  • Be aware of whom children come in contact with, in case someone tests positive for COVID-19.

  • Learn whom to contact at the school if your child has been exposed.

  • Know the local COVID-19 testing sites should your child show symptoms.

  • Review and practice proper hand-washing techniques at home and explain why they’re important.

  • Teach your child the importance of social distancing at school.

  • Develop daily routines of what to pack for school (sanitizer, extra masks, a water bottle) and what to do when they get home (washing hands and masks immediately).

After school, you’ll also want to ask questions that go deeper than, “How was your day?” Ask if everyone was in class and wearing their masks, including teachers and staff, and if anyone talked to them about staying safe and practicing good habits. Find out if anyone coughed a lot or had to leave the classroom or school. It’s important to be aware of what is happening in their environment at school because it could affect your environment at home.

Coping with Change

AltaMed is available to help you with resources for dealing with COVID-19, including vaccines when they become available. We lso provide counseling services to help navigate the stress children may be coping with as they return to school.

Learn how to get started with AltaMed or call us at (888) 499-9303.

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Adolescent and Teen Physicals during a Pandemic

March 17, 2021

As parents know all too well, adolescent and teen bodies undergo many changes as they grow into early adulthood. From hormonal shifts that can affect their moods to growth spurts leaving closets full of outgrown clothes, this time in your child’s life can keep parents on their toes. It’s all part of a normal developmental phase and it is important to make sure your child is growing healthy.

As we approach the one-year mark of our fight against COVID-19, many teens and adolescents have gone without their regular pediatrician visits and checkups due to concerns around coronavirus. However, parents should still schedule regular physical examinations, including well-child visits, immunizations, and oral health care appointments. AltaMed is taking necessary COVID-19 precautions to help keep families safe during this time.

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Pediatricians can help with a wide variety of health concerns. When necessary, they can also refer patients to a specialist.

Start with a Pediatrician Visit

Even through the teenage years and into the early twenties, your kids’ bodies and brains are changing. Regular and routine exams can help them grow healthy into adulthood. Our pediatricians will take good care of your kids (up until age 21) by reviewing their available health history, looking for early signs of health risks, and making sure they’re getting age-appropriate care. They can also help monitor all of the things listed below.

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A well-balanced diet is an essential part of adolescent health. Doctors can make recommendations about what foods children should eat or avoid. 

Weight and Nutrition 

Even before the pandemic, childhood obesity was a growing problem, and it can have lasting physical and emotional effects. Regular physical examinations give your doctor the chance to monitor weight and BMI (body mass index), and open a dialogue about nutrition and exercise that can help your child develop healthy habits for life.​

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Ask your doctor what vaccines children should be receiving. As they age, kids will become eligible for a variety of important immunizations.

​Vaccinations 

Despite all the focus on the coronavirus, other viruses and diseases have not taken a break. Teens and adolescents still need their routine, age-appropriate immunizations. This year, it’s more important than ever that every member of your family gets their flu shot. Your teen or adolescent may need other routine vaccines to protect against:

Talk to your doctor to find out about “makeup” Tdap shots to protect against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis. 

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​A large number of adolescents struggle mental health disorders, including anxiety and depression. If you suspect your child is suffering, don’t wait to speak with a professional.

Mental Health

This is a stressful time for everyone, your teen included. With many of the support systems they’ve come to rely on like sports, the arts, or a worship community drastically changing or no longer available, teens can have a difficult time coping and their mental health may be suffering. Depression and anxiety are common, even pre-pandemic.

Half of all mental health disorders start by age 14 yet many go unrecognized or untreated, and even more concerning, suicide is one of the leading causes of death among teens. 

In this new environment, a routine physical exam is a window of opportunity where a doctor can check in with your teen and ensure they are adapting to stressors and a largely changing environment in a healthy way. 

Taking Control of Their Own Health

As they grow, teens and adolescents have their own questions about their bodies, and the routine physical checkup provides a perfect opportunity for them get answers and start to take ownership for their own health and well-being.

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Letting your child take an active role in their healthcare will help them build good habits for the future.

This is an important life skill that can lead to a healthy, lifelong curiosity and proactivity around their health. 

​As a parent, you know your child’s health needs are constantly growing and evolving, just like they are. Make sure your child is scheduled to have their regular physical examinations and have the peace of mind knowing AltaMed is here to safely monitor their development and nurture a positive relationship between your teen and their ever-changing health needs. 

For more information about services or to schedule your appointment (888) 499-9303.

Don’t Lower Your Guard Against COVID, Even After Receiving the Vaccine

February 09, 2021

If you are one of the Los Angeles and Orange County residents who has received one of the three approved COVID-19 vaccines, you are not in the clear to resume life as usual just yet. While the vaccine provides much needed relief in the fight against coronavirus, these are some of the key reasons why we must remain vigilant against COVID-19:

  • No vaccine is 100% effective — One in 20 people can still get COVID-19 after the vaccine.
  • Vaccines don’t work instantly — It takes about two weeks for your immune system to be protected.
  • You can still spread the virus — Most vaccines prevent you from becoming sick but not from passing the virus to others if you become infected.
  • Masks protect others — People with other diseases are at a higher risk of becoming very ill if they get COVID-19.
  • Masks protect against new strains — Some are more contagious.

Waiting in Line

Remember, if you received the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine, two doses are required for your immune system to create enough antibodies to give you a greater than 95% chance of fighting off the virus. It is also important to complete your vaccine doses as close to the recommended interval as possible. According to the CDC, you have to wait at least 21 days before getting the second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and 28 days before getting the second dose of the Moderna vaccine. If you receive the second dose too soon, you won’t get the 95% protection rate. 

Only one dose is required of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Remember, you are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after you’ve received any one of the three vaccines. 

What Has Changed For Those Who Are Fully Vaccinated? 

  • You can gather indoors with fully vaccinated people without wearing a mask.
  • You can gather indoors with unvaccinated people from one other household (for example, visiting with relatives who all live together) without masks, unless any of those people or anyone they live with has an increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19
  • If you have been around someone who has COVID-19, you do not need to stay away from others or get tested unless you have symptoms. 
  • However, if you live in a group setting and are around someone who has COVID-19, you should still stay away from others for 14 days and get tested, even if you don’t have symptoms.

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What Has Not Changed?

For now, if you have been fully vaccinated:

  • You will still need to follow the following guidelines for businesses.
  • Wear your masks — Face masks to protect others.
  • Maintain hand hygiene — Use hand sanitizer to clean hands frequently, and wash hands for 20 seconds at a time. 
  • Practice physical distancing — Stay six feet apart from others whether inside or outside. 
  • Wipe down any surfaces you touch. 

For more information about the vaccine or testing, please visit AltaMed.org or call our vaccine hotline at (888) 909-5232.