As a phased return to the physical classroom begins on Monday in Saint Lucia, the Ministry of Health has advised parents to be on the alert for ‘vague’ symptoms of COVID-19.
“Many children present with atypical and vague symptoms of COVID-19 such as fatigue, headaches, decreased appetite, vomiting or diarrhea. Ask and observe daily. Do not hesitate to take your child in for assessment,” says Dr. Delphina Vernor, District Medical Officer at the Epidemiology Unit.
“Reinforce the protocols. Use age-appropriate terms and words that offer a positive connotation to help ease their fears example – safe space versus social distance,” Vernor said.
“Review hand hygiene, cough, and sneeze etiquette. Try to provide well-fitted masks and face shields. Practice to ensure these are worn properly. Although it is contrary to what we normally teach, speak to them about not sharing their supplies, food and drinks,” the District Medical Officer advised.
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Vernor said that if a family member is having symptoms and got tested for COVID, members of the household should await results before returning to work and school.
She disclosed that approximately 11% of diagnosed cases in St Lucia are school-aged children, most in the range of 12-17.
“The Pfizer vaccine became available in August and is approved for use in that age range. Even one dose significantly decreases the chances of contracting the virus. Please consider vaccination for your eligible children,” the senior health official said.
Vernor explained that some children might be excited about returning to the physical classroom while others might be scared or anxious. In this regard, she urged that the child’s feelings be validated.
“Children have to cope with all the changes related to the pandemic. Encourage them to talk about how they feel, listen to their concerns, and try to address them as best you can. Identify coping strategies to deal with their feelings. Encourage them to maintain contact with friends and to ask for help when needed. Stay active and engaged in activities that they enjoy such as swimming, bike riding or learn new skills such as cooking. Your child’s routine may be different when they return to school. Start practicing these to make the transition smoother,” Vernor asserted.
“Maintain open communication with your child’s teacher and principal, ask questions and seek clarification,” she stated.