Caring for an Immunocompromised Child During COVID-19

May 11, 2020
Janelle Thomas MSN, RN
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2020 will be a year we all remember. What started as a new decade rife with possibilities turned out to be a time of uncertainty, an interminable quarantine, and a lot of concerns about our collective health. The worry and anxiety are substantially higher in families with an immunocompromised child. If this is you, you may be wondering what are the extra risks for your child are — and what you can do to keep them as healthy as possible during this pandemic.

What does it mean to be immunocompromised?

The term immunocompromised refers to individuals with a weak immune system. Since the immune system is what protects the body against viruses and infections, this means that an immunocompromised child is at a higher risk of contracting a severe illness. It also makes it more likely that if they do contract a disease, they have a harder time fighting it off.

Children who are immunocompromised tend to have frequent infections — and it takes them longer to recover from simple conditions, such as the common cold. There are two ways a person can become immunocompromised.

  1. Primary immunodeficiency refers to people who are born with a chronic health condition that weakens the immune system.
  2. Secondary immunodeficiency refers to when the immune system is weakened due to medications, life events, and/or health conditions that are developed later in life.

Types of Immunocompromised Conditions

Certain medications — such as chemotherapy, corticosteroids, methotrexate, and cyclosporine — lower a person’s ability to fight disease. In addition, the following health conditions weaken the immune system:

  • Any type of cancer
  • Bacterial infections
  • Type 1 diabetes
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Sjogren syndrome
  • Hashimoto’s disease
  • Addison’s disease
  • Scleroderma
  • Vitiligo
  • Pulmonary fibrosis
  • Lupus
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Glomerulonephritis
  • Liver disease
  • Tuberculosis
  • HIV/Aids
  • Measles
  • Herpes

In addition to medications and autoimmune disorders, there are other ways a child could become immunocompromised. This includes stress — physical or emotional — as well as being exposed to secondhand smoke.

The Risk of COVID-19 for Immunocompromised Children

The novel coronavirus — also known as SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 — is an aggressive virus that causes severe infections of the lungs. While COVID-19 has affected individuals of all ages — including healthy people — it affects those with an underlying medical condition more severely. To add insult to injury, since there is currently no medication or vaccine to treat it, it can be life-threatening to immunocompromised children.

In compliance with recommendations from the World Health Organization, healthcare providers all over the world are taking additional safety measures to ensure that their hospitals and private practices are sterilized more often. Yet, it is still crucial for family members of immunocompromised children to take their own steps to preserve the health of their loved ones.

Tips to Keep an Immunocompromised Child Healthy During the COVID-19 Pandemic

1. Continue taking medications. Continue administering dosages according to your child’s pediatrician’s instructions. Doing so will lower the likelihood of having to go to a hospital due to a missed dose or complications.

2. Have an emergency supply of medications. This will help prevent unnecessary trips outside the house, as well as facing a shortage due to inaccurate information regarding how your child’s medication may help treat coronavirus.

3. Contact your pharmacy for refills. On March 13, 2020, the American Pharmacist Association issued a press release urging health insurers and pharmacies to waive certain restrictions regarding limiting refill supplies. This removes the need to go to the doctor as often and allows you to obtain that much-needed emergency supply.

4. Call your doctor if your child is not feeling well. Talk to your child’s pediatrician for minor issues, such as a runny nose or mild cough. Only go to the emergency room if recommended by the doctor or if your child’s life seems to be in danger — such as having a high fever or a flareup from their underlying health condition.

5. Wear a mask. Always wear a mask when taking care of an immunocompromised child. Only wear N95 masks when you’re around your child — since they’re in short supply. You can wear a non-medical grade one for running errands.

6. Do not share household items. This includes cups, towels, toiletries, and/or sharing food from the same plate. Also, limit the number of people who come into contact with your child.

7. Wash your hands. Every single person in your household should wash their hands frequently for a minimum of 30 seconds. This is still one of the most effective ways to stop the spread of germs and viruses.

8. Disinfect your home regularly. Pay close attention to items everyone touches — such as doorknobs, light switches, faucets, cell phones, remote controls, and refrigerator, oven, and microwave handles.

9. Practice social distancing. Stay away from people who do not live in your household and stay at least six feet away from others when running errands. Make sure that all members of your family are doing the same.

10. Avoid non-essential travel. Consider getting groceries delivered so that you lower your own risk of exposure. However, continue attending doctor appointments unless instructed otherwise by your child’s pediatrician.

Contact Care Options for Kids For Pediatric Home Health Care

It can be hard to balance your time between work, home, and caring for a child. That’s why our team of skilled professionals at Care Options for Kids is here to help.

Our home health care services offer support in the comfort of your home. We refer loving and competent nurses to provide customized care for families — from a few hours a day to around-the-clock supervision. Contact us directly to speak with a home health care professional or request a free in-home assessment. Together we can determine the best plan of action to keep your loved ones happy and healthy.

If you are considering pediatric home health care services, contact the caring staff at Care Options for Kids. Call today at (888) 592-5855.