Summer is here! Time for some fun, right?! Fun is necessary as long as we’re being smart! The health and safety of our family must always come first.
I’m sure the coronavirus has changed a lot of your summer plans, especially when it comes to traveling. This is the longest my family has gone without seeing my sister, brother-in-law, and niece and nephew in Florida! We also had a trip planned to visit my sister-in-law and our two nieces in Dallas that had to be canceled during the shutdown.
Now that places are starting to open back up and summer vacation for the kiddos is upon us, I figured it would be a good time to find out how to travel safely during this pandemic.
I put together a Q&A with Dr. Frank Esper, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Cleveland Clinic Children’s. If you’re planning on traveling this summer, check out his advice!
What do you do as a pediatric infectious disease specialist?
“As a pediatric infectious disease specialist, I see children suffering from a range of infections including viral, bacterial, fungal, parasitic. We commonly work with physicians with severe infections in the hospital intensive care units, oncology services, transplant services, in addition to seeing children in our outpatient clinic with less severe problems. We commonly help children with pneumonia, meningitis, blood infections (sepsis), Lyme disease, unknown fevers and bone infections, to name just a few.”
How has your job changed now that COVID-19 is here?
“While children and people in younger age groups see more resistance to severe infection, we are now seeing more and more children with this disease, as well as complications following the infection. We continue to perform research to understand why children are much more resilient against this virus.”
A lot of families are still traveling even with the coronavirus fears. What advice would you give families with kids who are traveling by car to their destinations?
“With the summer, people are now getting outside more and are thinking about traveling. It is still very important to know that the coronavirus is still out there. When traveling by car, you need to understand that stopping for refreshments, bathroom breaks and getting gas can bring you into contact with others. We need to continue to be vigilant about social distancing, wearing face masks in public, and washing hands/using sanitizer routinely.”
Any advice for families when they have to stop at rest stops to take a food or bathroom break?
“At rest stops, I would remember to wear masks, especially while indoors. This virus really enjoys small, closed spaces like restaurants. It also may be difficult to maintain social distancing in small facilities. I would use soap and water after going to the bathroom as normal, but I would consider cleansing them again upon returning to the vehicle with an alcohol-based rub that you should pack for the trip. Try to minimize the amount of stops that you have. Packing foods and snacks would be a good idea, as well.”
What advice would you give families with kids traveling by plane?
“The airline and airports have very rigorous guidelines on how to maintain a safe environment. Air circulation on planes is very well controlled. It is important to know that exposure to infection is not just on the plane itself, but in the process of getting to the plane, as well as the process of leaving the airport. Keeping a mask on throughout the process is vital. Washing your hands regularly and following the guidelines at the airport is also important.”
Are there any unique signs or symptoms we could see in our children that might be a sign they caught an infectious disease?
“Children and young adults can get sick just as older age groups do. However, many children do not show signs or symptoms when they are infected. Common symptoms for children are the same as adults including fever, cough, shortness of breath, body aches, sore throat, eye discharge and stomach upset.
For parents with babies, what should we look for since babies are not able to communicate when something isn’t right?
“For infants, it is most important to follow their fever, as well as how well they are breathing. If any small child is having difficulty breathing, they should be seen by a doctor immediately. High fevers can happen with any infection, including coronavirus, so it is always good to check in and discuss with your pediatrician when your child has a high fever.”
Any final advice you want to give families before they travel this summer?
“This summer, you should take extra time to prepare. There may be limitations to where you can go at your destination. You should check your destination’s local and state guidelines on if there is any necessary quarantining following your arrival. In addition, you should check your own state’s recommendations to see if there are any procedures to follow upon your return. These recommendations can change over the coming months, so make sure you stay up-to-date. Try to minimize stops during traveling and make sure that you are packing enough masks and hand sanitizer for the duration of your trip.”