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August 26, 2021

As school days are about to begin, your back-to-school shopping list should – if it doesn’t already look different this year – include more than just the traditional supplies of pens, pencils, crayons, erasers and more.

“Many children returning to school this fall will be unvaccinated since right now only children 12 and older can get the COVID vaccine in the United States to protect them, especially with the Delta variant affecting our younger population more than ever before,” said Dr. John O’Reilly, chief, Baystate General Pediatrics, Baystate Children’s Hospital.

The Baystate pediatrician recommends the following additional supplies to help keep your kids safe in the classroom:

Face masks

“We know the science tell us that face masks work to protect not only your children, but masks will also potentially protect their classmates and teachers. Parents should pack at least two or three in case one breaks or gets dirty,” said Dr. O’Reilly.

“Although we try not to touch the mask when donning and doffing, it may be unreasonable to ask kids not to touch them, so I don't think we want them to change masks just from touching. If they are touching them enough, they will look dirty and that will necessitate the change,” he added.

Some other points to consider around masking – provide your child with a clean, re-sealable plastic bag to store their mask in when not wearing, such as while eating. Also, remind them not to share their mask with anyone, place a label on all of the masks to avoid confusion for any reason, practice with your child putting on and taking off their mask with clean hands and the importance of not touching the cloth portion.

“Younger students may want their masks decorated. They may be happier about wearing their mask if it reminds them of their favorite animal or movie character,” said Dr. O’Reilly.

Hand sanitizer

“Since handwashing isn’t always possible in the classroom and in other school areas, you should send your child to school with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. It is important to teach your child to use hand sanitizer safely, and to avoid ingesting it or getting it into their eyes,” said Dr. O’Reilly.
The CDC recommends teaching and reinforcing handwashing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially at key times such as after bathroom breaks, before lunch, or after playing outside.

Tissues and disinfectant wipes

“Send your child to school with a package of tissues and teach them to sneeze into a tissue to prevent the spread of germs. Also, disinfecting wipes can keep desks clean, especially for older students who move from classroom to classroom,” said Dr. O’Reilly.

All the rest

Beyond your shopping list and on your general checklist, Dr. O’Reilly said that while it is good to instill the concept of sharing in your child, explain that because of the virus it is not a good idea right now to share supplies.

Also, it is a good idea to explain social distancing to them.

“You can practice social distancing at home by engaging a younger child’s imagination and creativity. They can turn on their force field to be sure that they keep three feet away from others in their school,” said Dr. O’Reilly

The most important thing on your checklist should be to get your child vaccinated for COVID, noted Dr. O’Reilly.

“Vaccinating children when they are eligible not only protects them, it protects their classmates who cannot get vaccinated due to medical conditions, and it protects every adult your child interacts with throughout their busy day. The pandemic has been stressful for everyone, and the return to in-person schooling may be stressful for your child. They may need a big hug from a supportive caregiver after a long school day, and vaccinating your child makes that hug safe for both your child and the caregiver,” he said.

To make an appointment with a Baystate pediatrician, call 413-794-2515. Learn more about Baystate Children’s Hospital.

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