Heading back to school with diabetes can be a source of anxiety for many parents. Sending your child with type 1 diabetes back to school in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic has caused many parents even greater distress.
School districts in North America are clamoring to find a solution to getting children back in the classroom this fall. Some schools have released various scenarios based on the number COVID-19 cases in their district at the time of opening.
What are the risks of my child with type 1 diabetes getting COVID-19 at school?
Many parents of children with type 1 diabetes fear sending their child back to school this fall. According to the JDRF, evidence thus far indicates that children and adults less than 65 years old with well-controlled T1D and without other health conditions are not at greater risk of getting COVID-19 and do not necessarily have worse outcomes of COVID-19 than their peers without T1D. They state that T1D itself may not be a medical reason to delay a return to school.
A variety of experts feel that the risk of children getting or transmitting COVID-19 is relatively low. Child to child transmission is also felt to be rare. Children who have contracted COVID-19 are rarely seen in a hospital setting and seem to recover sooner than their parents. There have also been very few issues in countries where schools have reopened for regular in-class instruction.
The CDC reminds parents that no other setting has more influence on a child’s health and well-being than the school. The in-person school environment not only provides educational instruction, but supports a child’s social and emotional skills, safety, speech, mental health, reliable nutrition, and opportunities for physical activity.
Can schools be safely reopened?
It is all well and fine to say that children should go back to school despite COVID-19, but what can be done to keep them safe if they do have to return to an actual classroom?
It is recommended that schools that are considering reopening during the pandemic do the following:
- Have desks facing forward at least 3-6 feet apart
- Use outdoor space as much as possible
- Have students eat lunch in their classrooms or in small groups outdoors
- Keep room doors open to limit contact with doorknobs
- Mark hallways with directional arrows and social spacing
- Stagger the start and closure of schools
- Stagger lunchtimes for students
- Ensure that teachers wear masks
- Have teachers limit in-person meetings with other adults wherever possible
- Have teachers to change classrooms, not students
- Use assigned seating and the wearing of face masks on buses
- Schools should be closed for at least 2-5 days if any staff, students, or visitors have been infected with COVID-19. Learning should continue through distance learning.
- Cancel sporting and school spirit events
What can I do to keep my child safe in school?
The decision to send your child with diabetes back to school during the COVID-19 pandemic is a very personal one based on your own family’s health concerns and situation. The CDC has a quiz to help you decide if it is safe for your child to return to school or not.
If you do decide to send your child with type 1 diabetes back into a classroom, here are a few things that you can do to help keep everyone safe.
- Students should all wear masks (except small children)
- Children should stay home if you have a fever, cough, or are feeling unwell
- Teach your child to practice proper handwashing
- Remind them to practice social distancing when possible
- After your child returns home from school, make sure that they wash their hands. Some experts further recommend showering and changing clothes.
Should I send my child with diabetes back to school?
It is up to decide if you should send your child with type 1 diabetes or your other children back to school during the COVID-19 pandemic. To recap, many experts feel that
- Children are less likely to develop or spread COVID-19
- If children do contract COVID-19, they seem to have a less severe reaction
- Children learn better in school than online
- Schools that have opened in other countries have seen a very low rate of cases
- Very few children have been hospitalized or died because of COVID-19
- The in-class setting has a huge influence on the child’s emotional well-being
However, others note that the low risk to children may be exaggerated because most of them have been relatively isolated at home while their parents have left the house to work, shop or socialize. A return to the classroom may cause an increase in the number of COVID cases in children. They also note that social distancing and the use of masks in small children is impossible to enforce.
Experts at Canada’s top hospitals agree that sending a child with diabetes to school during the COVID-19 remains the parents’ personal choice. Make sure that you are informed. Learn how your school plans to handle a fall reopening and speak to staff before your child returns to ensure that everyone can stay as safe as possible during this global pandemic.
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