• Joni Ganguzza

How an Emergency Medicine Physician Assistant Mom of 7 talks to Her Kids About The Coronavirus

For those that don’t know me or are new to following me, I have 7 kids (hence Raising Seven) ages 1-11, I’ve worked as a Physician Assistant in Emergency Medicine for over a decade and I am immunosuppressed secondary to a chemotherapy medication to treat my autoimmune encephalitis. I have had friends and family worried about me catching the Coronavirus because although at this point there is less than 100,000 cases, it has the potential to spread rapidly due to it being a respiratory illness that is airborne and easily is spread – just like a cold or influenza. It also has a much higher death rate than influenza at 2.3% and 19% of people who have had it have had serious or critical complications from it. (CDC Stats as of 3/2/2020)

I understand the potential of this illness. Imagine, 6 months ago, nobody had influenza in the US and now there are millions of cases because of how respiratory diseases are easily spread. If the Coronavirus became the same pandemic as influenza with millions of cases yet 19% of those millions of cases had serious complications requiring hospitalization, the results would be devastating. I also fully understand I am at higher risk of having a serious complication because I’m immunosuppressed and I have exposure to 7 beautiful germ magnets.

Ok, now that I have acknowledged the facts and we all know what could happen it is time to take a deep breath. Because do you know what doesn't help fight off disease? Panic. I actually had not mentioned the Coronavirus to any of my kids because why should an 8 year old be worried about dying, but 3 of my kids came home worried about dying because of what their classmates were telling them. My 11 year old was actually crying because she is getting over a cold and coughed a couple times and several kids started saying she had the Coronavirus. Which leads me to 2 conclusions: 1) Parents don’t know how to talk to their kids about something of this nature without leading to their kids anxiety and/or 2) Parents are panicking themselves and it is worrying their kids.

So I regret not talking to my kids sooner about this. They could have been a beacon of light explaining the best ways to prevent viruses to their peers. So yesterday I had a long talk with my older kids about the Coronavirus and these are my big points.

1) Yes, there is a virus out there, but hey guess what, kids have been the least affected by it to get super sick and so far, there are not any cases where we live

2) I asked them “What are things I tell you to do anyway during cold and flu season?” Then we list them out:

  • Wash your hands with soap and water for 30 seconds after using the restroom and before eating

  • Don’t touch your face – pretend you have Halloween make up on your face and you don’t want to mess it up

  • Use a tissue to cough or sneeze into, throw away the tissue then use hand sanitizer/wash your hands

  • Go to bed early when mom and dad tell you to every night because sleep makes it so you can’t get sick as easily

  • Take your probiotic and vitamins (this is the one we use) every day for gut health which is where our immune system needs the most help

  • Don't panic, because anxiety and worries can make it easier for your body to get sick

  • If we have a bad cough, congestion and/or fever, we stay home, even if it means missing a fun birthday party or school event so we don’t get others sick

  • We eat lots of healthy fruits and veggies because our gut is the healthiest with 5 servings at least per day

  • Also, We don’t share food or drinks with anyone.

3) I told them if they do everything on that list, they have the best chance of staying healthy

4) I told them that that if they are worried they can pray to God about it, talk to mom and dad, talk to the teacher or even the school nurse.

But remember y’all, more is caught than taught. If they hear you talking and you have anxiety, they hear that. If you have the news on 24/7 and constantly hearing that this is coming like a tsunami, they hear that too. If they see you eating healthy, washing your hands and taking care of yourself – they are watching that too. Be the beacon of reason and understanding for your kids so that is what they can focus on spreading to their peers.

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