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Celebrating holidays during the time of COVID-19

The safest option is to stay home and celebrate with the members of one household.

2020 has been a challenging year for all of us and we are all exhausted, but as we head into the holidays it is so very important that we continue to stay vigilant and safe.

We all want and need to spend time with family and friends; it is hard to imagine not doing so during the holidays. But as cases of COVID-19 are surging around the country it is necessary that we take precautions and be flexible. Here are some suggestions and tips as we plan to be with our loved ones as safely as possible and still be together.

The safest option is to stay home and celebrate with the members of one household. This is especially important if your family includes individuals at high risk of serious infection. If you are inviting people over, please limit the size and minimize the number of households coming together.

Eat outside. Fortunately, here in Arizona the odds are favorable that we will have decent weather. If at all possible, eat outside, still limiting the number of people. It does no good if the yard is packed with people, even if outside. It is then impossible to maintain any distance between people.

Open windows in each room if you are inside and turn on the exhaust fans over the stove and in the bathroom. Homes are built to be energy efficient and air circulates slowly, making it easier to transmit the virus.

Shorten the time of the gathering. This is challenging as we are all so excited to see others that we want to be together longer, but that increases the risk.

If watching sports, everyone should wear masks so that as they get excited they minimize spreading the virus into the air.

Make an agreement with people who are coming over that they and you will be extra diligent about staying home the week before coming to minimize risk. Getting tested three days before arriving is helpful but doesn’t eliminate the risk. There are examples of people tested just before family reunions, remaining asymptomatic during the function, and still spreading COVID to many in the family.

As 2020 comes to end, the COVID-19 pandemic is still active and threatening many. We are all tired and want this to be over, but unless we can all come together as a nation and be willing to follow recommendations of masking, social distancing, and hygiene, the pandemic will continue to wreak havoc on our lives, emotionally, physically and financially. We can unite and bring it under control so that our children and ourselves can be whole again. I firmly believe that we can do this. May we all celebrate in a thoughtful, safe, warm way this holiday season.

How to tell if it’s FLU or COVID?

The flu and COVID share many common symptoms, including:

  • Fever/chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath, difficulty breathing
  • Extreme tiredness
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • Stuffy, runny nose
  • Vomiting or diarrhea

A key symptom more likely with COVID-19 is a loss of taste or smell, but even that symptom is less common in children.

It is important to remember that children with COVID-19 usually have milder symptoms that are often missed. They still can spread the disease to others. Children under the age of 10 years old are less likely to spread COVID-19 (while more likely to spread the flu), but they still can transmit the virus to others. Adults and adolescents are the primary vectors and it is strongly encouraged that they wear masks when gathering with people outside of their household.

About the pediatrician

Gretchen Hull, MD, was born in California but grew up in Tucson, graduated from Brown University and attended medical school at the University of Arizona. She completed her pediatric residency at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles in 2002 and has worked at Tucson Central Pediatrics ever since. She serves on the boards of the Arizona Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics and Parent Aid, an organization dedicated to preventing child abuse. She volunteers with the Flying Samaritans in Baja California Sur and has been on several international medical trips to countries such as Guatemala and India. Her hobbies include photography, travel and studying foreign languages. She is fluent in Spanish.

Arizona Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics
Arizona Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatricshttp://azaap.org
This article is presented in partnership with the Arizona Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AzAAP), which is committed to improving the health of Arizona children and supporting the pediatric professionals who care for them.


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