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How to keep kids safe during B.C.'s respiratory illness season

COVID-19, influenza and RSV are all making kids sick — and putting a strain on B.C.'s health-care system. Here's how to do your part to cut the risk.
With COVID-19, influenza and RSV all in the mix this season, how can you keep your kids healthy and safe? Protect Our Province B.C. offers some tips.

There are plenty of respiratory viruses wreaking havoc in B.C. right now: COVID-19, influenza, RSV and more.

Rising cases among children have been placing an increasing strain on B.C.’s health-care system — particularly at places like B.C. Children’s Hospital, which has reported emergency room waits of up to 12 hours over recent days.

So how can you keep your child healthy and safe this fall and winter — and, by extension, help to protect the health-care system?

Protect Our Province B.C. — a group of physicians, nurses, health scientists, health policy specialists and community advocates who have been lobbying for a stronger response to the COVID-19 pandemic — offers up some tips:

Stay home if you’re sick.

This is a fundamental building block for all other measures: keep your symptoms at home. For parents and caregivers, this also means keeping children at home — and away from schools and daycares — when they have symptoms.

“Unfortunately, it again shifts the burden to the non-privileged,” PoP BC’s Dr. Lyne Filiatrault acknowledged, noting many people have by now used up their five sick days mandated by the province.

Wear masks in indoor public spaces.

“We’re back to being very, very careful in indoor public spaces,” Filiatrault said.  “Most indoor, crowded places right now are unsafe; that’s the bottom line. Wear the best masks possible.”

Need help obtaining a mask — or want to help provide masks to others who need them?

The cost of N95 and similar respirator-style masks can be prohibitive for some people, but help is available. Filiatrault points to a couple of organizations helping to make masks available:

  • Donate a Mask: This is a volunteer-run charity that accepts donations towards its cause of shipping free N95 or equivalent respirator masks to anyone who requests them, anywhere in Canada.
  • Masks for East Van: This is a neighbourhood fund designed to raise money to help provide N95 masks for neighbours who need but can’t afford them.

Plan for safe and inclusive events.

If you’re the one planning an event, take some steps to make it as safe as possible. Protect Our Province B.C. offers suggestions, including

  • Plan for outside gatherings, where risk of transmission is lower;
  • Require guests to rapid test right before an event;
  • Wear masks (N95 or equivalent, if possible);
  • Clean the air: If you can, choose spaces with good ventilation and filtration; open windows; or use HEPA filters and/or Corsi-Rosenthal boxes.

Get vaccinated, and ensure your children are vaccinated.

Pediatric vaccination rates, in particular, are low across B.C.

Filiatrault stresses the need to ensure children are vaccinated against both COVID-19 and influenza as respiratory viruses surge for the fall and winter season.

“We need to immunize against what we can, and that’s influenza and COVID-19,” she said.

Follow Julie MacLellan on Twitter @juliemaclellan.
Email Julie, [email protected]