Is delta more dangerous for children? Pediatrician answers top back-to-school questions

With the delta variant sparking a new wave, many families are facing safety concerns.

August 5, 2021, 13:50

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With the hypertransmissible delta variant sparking another wave of COVID-19, many families are questioning whether it is safe to send young children back to school for personal learning.

Again, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that adults and children wear masks in schools. Meanwhile, a COVID-19 vaccine is unlikely to be available for children under 12 before the end of the year.

But dr. Edith Bracho-Sanchez says children will benefit from personal learning this year with the right precautions.

“I understand it’s nerve-wracking,” Bracho-Sanchez, a primary care pediatrician and assistant professor of pediatrics at Columbia University Irving Medical Center, explained in an interview with ABC News on Instagram Live.

“Let’s trust science. Let’s take a deep breath.’

Experts agree that the best and most important step adults can take to keep children safe is to get themselves vaccinated.

Experts agree that the best step adults can take to keep children safe is to get themselves vaccinated. Children are less likely to get infected with the virus if all the adults around them are immune, creating an invisible ring of protection.

Is delta more dangerous for children?

Data on the new delta variant is still coming. For example, it’s still not clear whether the variant causes more serious illness in adults and children, although the director of the National Institutes of Health, Francis Collins, recently told CNN that the data “tips” in that direction.

But the real danger of delta is that it is highly contagious and is now increasing in low-vaccination communities. The CDC now recommends that everyone in school settings — vaccinated or unvaccinated — wear a mask to slow transmission.

“I know it’s frustrating, but it really makes sense and we should do it,” Bracho-Sanchez said.

How can parents help children prepare for personal learning?

Bracho-Sanchez says children will benefit from personal learning, but parents should be given the opportunity to advocate with their school district to ensure the learning environment is as safe as possible.

At home, parents can help children transition by asking them how they feel about going back to a classroom.

“You know, I’ve seen kids who’ve seen too much and been through too much in the past year and a half,” Bracho-Sanchez said. “Some have witnessed the passing of relatives… and we are now going to ask them to transition and perform at a level that they have not really supported to perform once the school year starts again.”

Bracho-Sanchez said she reminds her patients to go back to basics: Start the school year the right way by making sure kids are outside, eating nutritious food, and getting enough sleep.

“Once we’ve implemented all those basics, we can also start conversations about how kids feel about going back to school,” she said. “All it takes is to create this space and ask those questions.”

Should I consider withholding my child to catch up after last year?

Some schools may recommend that certain children withhold a grade to make up for last year. But according to Bracho-Sanchez, this decision should not be taken lightly.

“We know we have studies … we have data … showing that children who have withheld a number are at a higher risk of dropping out in the future,” she said.

Parents and teachers should help students perform while staying in their own classroom, she said, and parents are encouraged to contact their pediatrician if a school recommends holding a child back.

Parents are encouraged to contact their pediatrician if a school recommends restraining a child.

“I think the parents can do a lot,” she said. “Now is the time to come together as a community.”

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