COVID-19 Update

Dear Parent/Caregiver,

Thank you for contacting us regarding the potential impact of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) on your child and family. Please know that UF Health Pediatric Gastroenterology care providers are participating in strategy meetings daily and incorporating input from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and state and local authorities into our care plans. We share your concerns, and we want to do the best to help keep you and your child healthy.

Here are some critical things you should know:

  • COVID-19 is spread via aerosol, which means particles can be inhaled from the air when a patient coughs or sneezes. It is also in body fluids (such as nasal mucus and stool), and it can be spread by touching contaminated surfaces.
  • There have been few severe cases in children. Though many children have tested positive, they typically have no symptoms or just minimal symptoms. This means that children are probably less likely to have a severe infection, compared to adults and the elderly, but can also be carriers of the virus, infecting adults.
  • Individuals with lung disease, those who are immunosuppressed (such as our patients with inflammatory bowel disease or transplants) or those with neuromuscular disease are not more likely to contract COVID-19; however, they are at greater risk for complications such as pneumonia. This is true for any respiratory virus.
  • GI doctors all over the world are sharing outcomes of patients with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) who become infected with COVID-19. So far, patients who are immune suppressed because of treatment for IBD tend do have good outcomes. The recommendation is to continue all your routine medication including injections and infusions to prevent flare-up symptoms.
  • There is no medication to treat or prevent COVID-19 infection, though medications to treat symptoms of fever, cough or congestion may be recommended.

If your child does need to be seen here at the UF Health Pediatric Gastroenterology, please be aware that the hospital is taking extra precautions to keep anyone who has the potential to be infected with COVID-19 far away from other patients. This includes isolation precautions beyond the usual gowns and masks and localization of patients in separate areas. During this time, we are performing routine/non-urgent clinic visits via telemedicine that would allow us to do the visit from our office to your home. This can be done with your cell phone or home computer, as long as the device has a camera and speaker. At this time, infusions at the UF Health Pediatric Infusion Center are still occurring as they normally would.

If your child’s gastroenterologist has prescribed daily medications (such as a stool softener or antacid) or treatments (such as medication for inflammatory bowel disease) to keep your child’s stomach or GI tract healthy, now is the time to be sure they are receiving these.

Our usual recommendations for avoiding viral infections hold true, with increased diligence recommended:

  • Keep yourself and your child away from individuals who have a known viral infection or pneumonia or are symptomatic with fever, cough, runny nose or sore throat.
  • Do not leave your home if you have above symptoms, and contact your primary care doctor.
  • Avoid touching your face, nose and mouth unnecessarily. Clean hands before/after when able.
  • Avoid public spaces and gatherings of 6 or more people, and really try to keep your child at home. It is okay to allow your child to play outside, but try to avoid public spaces like parks, where equipment such as playgrounds may be infected with the virus.
  • Wash hands or use alcohol-based sanitizer frequently. Likewise, clean common area surfaces (such as desktops) with alcohol or bleach based disinfectant, and avoid sharing items (especially eating utensils).

The virus particle is very small, so the majority of surgical/hospital masks available for purchase do not protect a person from becoming infected or transmitting the virus. At this time, we are not recommending that children or parents wear masks for prevention; however, caregivers who have any symptoms of fever, cough, runny nose or sore throat should wear a mask to protect their child if avoidance is not an option.

The CDC has recommended no large group gatherings (i.e. group meetings, sports activities, etc.) and travel restrictions. Visit CDC.gov for more information and recommendations.

At this time, Alachua County schools are closed and other schools throughout the nation are closed, as well. For helpful resources on school closures and other important information associated with COVID-19, please visit peds.ufl.edu

The health of your child is of utmost concern for us. Please contact us with any questions, and we can assist you in setting up a telemedicine visit with your GI doctor or dietician.

Sincerely,

Your UF Health Pediatric Gastroenterology Team