Many people are concerned about the coronavirus. They are worried about being exposed and they are worried about what happens if they contract the virus. Many people are stock piling water, soap, disinfect wipes and surgical masks. People are even canceling their vacation plans. When so many adults are worried and taking numerous precautions, children begin to worry about their safety. They are afraid to go to school because they don’t want to catch the coronavirus. This excessive anxiety is not good for children. Therefore, parents need to get the accurate information and discuss it with their children.
This is a new virus and spreading faster and easier than expected. However, when you compare this virus to the influenza (the flu), the flu is much more contagious and deadly. According to the CDC, 49,000,000 people in the United States contracted influenza this year, typically referred to as the flu, and 20,000 people died from the flu this year. When you contrast this with the coronavirus, there are currently 500 reported cases and 17 deaths as of March 6, 2020 according to the CDC. While these numbers will rise as we continue to test people, it appears that the flu virus is responsible for more deaths. The coronavirus is getting a great deal of attention because we do not have specific protocols for how to prevent and treat this virus yet. The CDC is still developing guidelines for how we need to respond and are currently working on a vaccine.
Therefore, parents it is important that you calmly talk to your child about the current situation. Explain that this is a new virus and the doctors need time to decide what is the best way to treat it and that the flu is more dangerous than the coronavirus. Explain that until the doctors know the best way to treat the virus that it is very important that they wash their hands after using the bathroom, playing outside or touching things outside of the house. Tell them to sing happy birthday while washing their hands with soap and water. This is a good way to know they have washed their hands long enough. Also let them know if their is no soap or water, they can use hand sanitizer instead and that is good enough. Also remind them to try not to touch their eyes, nose or mouth when they are at school or playing because it is a way to catch germs. Also if they sneeze or cough to cover their mouths. Remind them the doctors are doing everything they need to in order to figure out the best way to deal with the coronavirus so they do not need to worry.
Another aspect to address is if they notice they are coughing, feeling achy and like they have a fever to tell you. If they have these symptoms you will take them to the doctor who will tell you what to do. Remind them they do not need to worry about dying. Remind them more people die from the flu and nothing happened to them. Also point out that the people who have died from the coronavirus were usually around 75 or 80 years old and already had health problems such as problems with their heart. The reports show that children their age have nothing to worry about.
This should help your child’s anxiety about the current virus out break. In the meantime pay attention to the reports from the CDC and look at what you and your family have planned. If you have plans to go to events where there are a lot of people such as sporting events you may want to change your plans until the CDC has developed firm guidelines to deal with the current situation. If you stay calm, your child should stay calm. Make the best decisions for you and your family based on the information you have at the time. If we all stay calm and follow common sense guidelines, we should all be fine. Remember the statistics for influenza are much worse than the coronavirus. The flu virus changes every year too. Therefore, staying calm and following the CDC guidelines is the best approach at this time.
Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience treating teenagers and children. He has a sub specialty in medical psychology. For more information about Dr. Rubino’s work or his private practice visit his website at www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/drrubino3