Local doctor offers tips to keep children safe and healthy during full-time face-to-face learning

McLeod doctor advises parents on ways to keep kids safer in full-time face-to-face learning environment

HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WMBF) - Keep your safety guards up!

It’s timely advice from Dr. Matthew Weeks, the chief medical officer at Mcleod Loris Seacoast Hospital. He’s also a board certified pediatrician.

The doctor’s recommendation comes as hundreds of middle school students head back to the classroom Thursday for full-time face-to-face instruction. The move comes nearly three weeks after brick-and-mortar elementary students returned to the classroom for five days of traditional learning.

Weeks says one of the best way parents can ensure their kids are better protected on the school grounds is to remind them to follow the same safety precautions they’ve been doing since the start of the pandemic.

Those recommendations include:

  • Washing your hands
  • Covering your cough
  • Wearing a face mask
  • No gathering in groups

Weeks says communicating those behaviors to kids is a must for parents, as their children make their way to the classrooms and back home.

He says it’s equally important that parents remember to do all they can to protect their kids because there’s also another lurking threat during this time: the flu.

“Remember COVID-19, which we’re all scared of, is really is generally most severe in adults,” Weeks said. “Especially those with underlying health conditions. In general, children fair very well with COVID as a general rule. Influenza, however, can actually be very severe in children. It’s very easy to forget the flu vaccine, but that’s really important. Parents [need to] make sure their kids get the flu vaccine. This year and every year.”

If for any reason your child starts showing symptoms of COVID-19 or the flu, Weeks encourages you to contact your doctor immediately.

He says it can be difficult to distinguish between the flu from COVID-19 especially with a child, as a lot of the symptoms are the same. These include coughing, a fever, chills, and body aches. He says children may have symptoms like nausea or vomiting.

However, the doctor says a big difference that distinguishes the two are a loss of taste or smell, which is a symptom associated with COVID-19. He says another way parents can distinguish the two viruses is the onset of symptoms. He says with the flu, the onset of symptoms is within one to four days, and with COVID-19 it can be between two to 14 days.

He says it’s important parents send their kids to school when they’re healthy and not if they’re showing symptoms of being ill.

“If the parent knows their child is not feeling well, they should do their best to not send their kids to the school grounds and expose students and teachers to potentially a serious infection,” Weeks said.

As of now, Socastee Middle, Forestbrook Middle and Myrtle Beach Middle students are phasing into full-time traditional learning Thursday.

During Monday’s Board of Education meeting, school leaders said they hoped to have plexiglass installations completed inside all the middle schools. That means more middle schools could be phasing into five days of face-to-face instruction very soon.

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