Children and coronavirus: Atrium Health pediatrician Dr. Lyn Nuse answers 10 questions

Children and coronavirus: Atrium Health pediatrician Dr. Lyn Nuse answers 10 questions
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Worried about your children and coronavirus? The Agenda reached out to Atrium Health pediatrician Dr. Lyn Nuse with 10 questions. Below are her responses.

Dr. Nuse is the specialty medical director of primary care pediatrics at Atrium Health Levine Children’s Hospital.

(1) Are children at higher risk of contracting COVID-19?

According to the CDC, and based on current evidence, children are not at any higher risk of contracting COVID-19 compared to adults.

(2) What can children do to protect themselves?

First and foremost, WASH THOSE HANDS! Use soap and water and clean well for at least 20 seconds. Don’t forget the thumbs, backs of the hands, and even wrists. Sing a song like “Happy Birthday” or your “ABCs” to pass the time and make sure you wash for long enough. If soap and water aren’t available then hand sanitizer with at least 60-70 percent alcohol is a close second.

Next, make sure children are coughing and sneezing into their elbow, just like we would with any other flu or cold virus. It’s also important to immediately throw away any used tissues.

Parents should wipe down/clean surfaces around the house several times a day. Avoid others who are sick. Launder clothes and things like washable stuffed toys more frequently, and in the warmest possible water.

Finally, stay home and avoid any places that are not essential for your daily living needs. Limit how often you make trips to grocery stores, the bank, gas station, etc, and if you can, leave your children home when running these necessary errands.

[Agenda related story: FAQ: What does Mecklenburg County’s stay at home order really mean?]

(3) How are COVID-19 symptoms presenting in most children? The same or different than the symptoms most adults are facing?

Most children have very mild symptoms and about 15 percent of children may have no symptoms at all.

Symptoms could include runny nose, cough, fever, and sore throat. Even vomiting and diarrhea has been reported in some children.

In many ways it looks like a cold or the seasonal flu for children. However, the seasonal flu usually hits very quickly, within hours, but COVID-19 is slow moving. There can be very mild symptoms for five days or so before fevers and worsening symptoms develop.

(4) If my child has symptoms, should I contact my pediatrician first? Will children be given priority in testing?

If you are worried that your child has symptoms which could be coronavirus, absolutely contact your pediatrician. At our Levine Children’s practices, we have many resources to support you and your children during these confusing and scary times.

Once you call one of our offices, you could be referred to our Levine Children’s Virtual Visit platform, staffed by our own pediatricians and advanced practitioners.

You can get the same high quality of care we provide in our offices through our Virtual Visits by simply downloading the Atrium Health Virtual Visit app and then clicking on the yellow and teal Virtual Visit-Pediatric box.

If you don’t have access to the app, we are also offering phone visits within each of our practices, and within a week or so, we should have the ability to deliver virtual visits with your regular Levine Children’s practice.

Because children have such mild disease, they do not automatically get priority for testing. That way, we can save limited testing resources for the sicker patients, both adult and child.

(5) Are local pediatrician offices performing COVID-19 tests?

Within Atrium Health, we are referring children to our regional testing centers. These are staffed by people trained in the proper techniques for collecting and transporting the samples for testing. This way, we can ensure that the test results are accurate, because how the sample is collected is very important for making sure the result is correct.

[Agenda related story: Charlotte hospitals are preparing for war against coronavirus]

(6) Is the COVID-19 test the same for children as it is for adults? How is the test administered for a child?

There is no difference in test collection for a child compared to an adult.

A swab is passed into the back of nose.

charlotte motor speedway atrium health testing coronavirus

On March 24, a remote testing site opened at the Charlotte Motor Speedway complex. A physician can schedule an appointment here for a patient to be tested for COVID-19 without getting out of the car.

(7) What should I do if my child tests positive?

First, know that we are all here to support you. I could tell you not to worry, but that’s not realistic. Parents worry — that’s normal. Just know that we have developed ways to help guide you through taking care of your child.

Secondly, for most children, care will be supportive. Lots of rest, plenty of fluids, Tylenol or ibuprofen for fever control—all things you would do for any cold or flu virus. If your child has more severe symptoms, your physician will make sure they get the proper care and follow up. Remember, we are only a phone call away if you need us.

(8) Are children who contract COVID-19 sick and contagious for the same amount of time as adults?

As far as we know in many cases, the answer is yes.

However, since adults can get more severe symptoms, they could be sicker longer than a child with mild symptoms.

(9) Is there a certain age group of children that is at higher risk of contracting COVID-19?

There isn’t a specific age group as far as we know, but children with underlying health conditions like asthma, other lung disease, or diabetes, or those who may be on medicines that decrease their immune system are at higher risk for getting COVID infection.

(10) Anything else Charlotte parents should know?

Children take their cues from the adults around them. So take care of yourselves.

Build in some time each day, before the kids get up in the morning or after they go to bed at night, to relax in whatever way works for you (exercise, meditation, reading, prayer, etc).

Avoid checking the news or having it on a lot at home — it can contribute to both your and your children’s anxiety.

Keep to a schedule at home as much as possible. Humans of all ages are creatures of habit. We need routine and predictability, especially in times of stress. Resist having every day be pajama day, as tempting as that may be.

And it is ok to answer your child’s questions about all of this change, but do so in a way that is age appropriate and doesn’t give them more information than they asked for. Keep it simple.


More information: The CDC and American Academy of Pediatrics have sites dedicated to giving parents information about children and COVID-19.

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