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Keeping Our Families Healthy During the COVID-19 PANDEMIC


As a contributor to Irvine Community News & Views (ICNV) and as a parent, grandparent and pediatrician, I want to assure the community that we will get through this coronavirus pandemic…together.

What is essential right now is for each of us to do our very best to comply with the “Stay-at-Home” guidelines that have been put in place throughout California to protect our families and our communities.  I recommend that we all follow the guidelines outlined by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).  In addition to physical distancing (which some call social distancing), it’s important not to touch your eyes, nose and mouth.  And, it’s especially important to wash your hands frequently for at least 20 seconds — and to continue this habit permanently as a sound public health practice.

It’s perfectly natural for all of us to feel a bit overwhelmed as we adjust to the new realities of the coronavirus pandemic.  Our kids have suddenly transitioned to online classes, and most parents are working remotely from home.  Those of us who work in essential services (police, fire, and medical) are trying to figure out how to not bring the virus home to our families.  Younger parents have the added burden of figuring out childcare while they are away taking care of others.  And, many families are facing financial strains that add to the emotional stress.

As a physician, there are a few things I want you to know.  Your doctors are receiving daily communications from federal and state health agencies on how best to manage the pandemic to protect our patients and their families.  Contact your primary health care provider (and pediatrician) if you have concerns and questions.  We are here to help.

If you have symptoms or a reason to believe you require immediate testing, I recommend contacting your primary care physician’s office.

Remember that your primary care physician (and pediatrician) knows you and your family.  They have a complete history of your health and are best equipped to address any health concerns you may have.

In addition to taking care of your physical health, it’s important to also focus on your mental well being.  Exercise can help with that.  Even during this period of physical distancing, it’s important to get out and take a walk to keep our bodies moving and lower our stress levels.  One of my favorite daily activities is walking with my husband.  It’s nice to just get outdoors, breathe in some fresh air, and tune out the news.  In addition, several gyms and yoga studios are offering free live-streaming classes.  If you can’t get outside for a walk or bike ride, consider taking advantage of one of these classes.  To learn more about the free online exercise classes, click here.

And, although we keep hearing the term “social distancing,” what the medical community is asking us to do right now is distance ourselves “physically” from others, not socially.  There’s never been a more important time to stay connected “virtually” to our friends, neighbors and loved ones.  Social media is a great way to stay connected to our friends and extended family members during this period of physical distancing.   Thankfully, video chats make it possible to see them and have a conversation “face-to-face” from the safety of our homes.  There are dozens of ways to virtually visit friends and relatives, including Skype, FaceTime, and Zoom.  Our family recently set up a Zoom family gathering with three generations of relatives, including the pets.  It was terrific and helped everyone in our family feel more connected to one another.

This is also a good time to pick up the phone and make an old-fashioned call to your family and friends to let them know you’re thinking of them.  They will surely appreciate hearing your voice.

In addition to these common sense measures to keep our families healthy, I am including links (below) to resources from the local, state, and national medical communities.  Together, we will get through this.  In the meantime, be well and stay safe!

Our Orange County Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics has compiled a list of resources for our pediatricians and all health care providers, as well as for children and their families.  Click here to visit the resource page.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has released a list of tips (click here) for helping parents find ways to occupy children during these challenging times.

HealthyChildren.org — a project of the American Academy of Pediatrics — has created a webpage (click here) with the very latest information regarding the coronavirus.  They have also created a separate web page (click here) for parents, with a list of ways to keep your children safe and active while we all work to slow the spread of the virus.

For general information from the Orange County Health Care Agency, click here.

Outstanding state and federal resources include the California Department of Public Health, click here; and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), click here.

For information from our local food banks, click here.

Phyllis Agran, MD, MPH, FAAP
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