Cancer Patients, Should You Send Your Kids Back to School?

By Sara Bondell - August 03, 2020

The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention has released science-based guidelines and resources for school administrators, teachers and parents when schools reopen this fall.

The guidelines are based on the CDC’s focus on the positive impact of in-person education, the dangers of keeping children at home and the relatively low risk of children suffering severe symptoms or dying from COVID-19.

But if you are a cancer patient, should you send your children back to school?

Dr. Bryan McIver, deputy physician-in-chief
Dr. Bryan McIver, deputy physician-in-chief

“This is a very individualized decision and you need to take into account the risk factors for everyone in the household,” said Dr. Bryan McIver, deputy physician-in-chief at Moffitt Cancer Center. “If a member of the household is immunocompromised due to cancer treatment, then everyone around that person should take particular precautions to minimize the chance of carrying the infection home with them. This could include a decision to have the kids attend school virtually.”

When deciding if your children should return to school, Dr. John Greene, chair of Moffitt’s Infectious Diseases Program, says you should consider the current community transmission rates. These are updated daily on county health department websites.

“If local transmission in a community is low, then the risk of school transmission is low,” said Greene. “If it’s high then likewise the risk of transmission in the school setting is high as well.”

The CDC has also created a tool kit to help each family make the right decision.

Dr. John Greene, chair, Infectious Diseases Program
Dr. John Greene, chair, Infectious Diseases Program

Because children could be asymptomatic carriers, Greene recommends they wear masks and practice social distance at school. He also says children should avoid large gatherings or school events where physical distancing isn’t possible.

“If a child is exposed to a COVID-19 positive person at school, they should maintain strict separation as feasible from others in the household for 14 days,” said Greene.

While a recent study from South Korea found that the rate of infection was three times higher for children 10 to 19 years old than children under 10, there is a lack of data on children and COVID-19 transmission in the U.S. The National Institutes of Health is launching a study that will follow 2,000 families for six months to determine how often children get infected and infect their families.

If you are planning on sending your children back to class, the CDC recommends checking your child each morning for signs of sickness or fever, reviewing proper hand washing techniques, talking to your child about precautions to take at school, planning for possible school closures and developing a family plan to protect household members who are at an increased risk for severe COVID-19 illness.

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Sara Bondell Medical Science Writer 813-745-1353 More Articles

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