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Coronavirus FAQ

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    Frequently asked questions

    Am I or my child eligible for a COVID-19 vaccination?

    The Department of Health has advised that children from the age of 12+ years are now eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine  

    To book in for your/your child's vaccination:

    For children aged 5 to 11 years of age:

    • The TGA has provisionally approved the Pfizer vaccine for this age group. This was based on careful evaluation of the available data around its safety and efficacy for this age group.
    • Before vaccine roll out can start, final consideration still is required from the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI)
    • Advice from ATAGI will also guide specifics of the vaccine roll out, if and when it starts (eg prioritisation of those with chronic medical conditions) 
      • The RCH will be guided by ATAGI and vaccine availability.

    Further information about vaccines for COVID-19 can be found at COVID-19 vaccines | Coronavirus Victoria

    We also recommend your child and whole family to also have the 2021 influenza vaccination. See below under 'What else can I do to help reduce the potential health impacts of COVID-19?' for further information.

    What is coronavirus, COVID-19?

    The Royal Children’s Hospital (RCH) COVID-19 website provides paediatric specific information and advice around visiting the hospital. It includes a RCH video  which gives a practical overview of how to reduce risk of infection.

    The  DHHS webpage provides up-to-date overview of the current situation and steps to take if you or your family are exposed to the virus.

    How can I speak to my child about the virus?

    For information about minimalizing infection risk, and guidance on how to talk to children about the virus, please see  'Coronavirus and children in Australia', published by The Raising Children Network.

    For further information, scroll down below to FAQ question: ‘What can I do to manage my child’s worry and anxiety?’

    What should I do if I am worried that my child might have COVID-19?

    If you’re concerned your child might be experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, please visit  www.dhhs.vic.gov.au/coronavirus or call the dedicated hotline on 1800 675 398 for advice.

    • A useful tool is this  interactive self-assessment tool from DHHS.

    • For a full list of testing sites including an interactive map and drive through options, please see the dedicated  DHHS webpage

    • If you are worried that medical review is required, you can visit your family doctor, or consider visiting the closest hospital Emergency Department for emergency care. If you require advice after hours, you can also contact the after hours GP helpline on 1800 022 222 or dial 000 in an emergency.

    For families known to the department, see ‘Lines of communication with the respiratory department’ for additional contact methods.

    My child has a chronic respiratory condition. Are they at a higher risk if they contract COVID-19?

    From what we have learned so far about COVID-19 we know that most children with this infection have milder symptoms than adults even with the emergence of the new SARS-COV2 strains. This also appears to be the case for children with CF/PCD/bronchiectasis/chronic lung disease.

    When reviewing statistics from the US and UK, people with CF are not at increased risk of severe infection or death from COVID-19 compared to peers without CF.

    My child has a chronic respiratory condition. Should we self isolate as has been recommended in other countries?

    At this stage we advise that you follow government recommendations which includes social distancing and getting a COVID vaccine if eligible. Advice from the government is based on several factors including the number of cases in the community.

    Updates regarding this advice will appear on the  DHHS website.

    What can I do to protect my child from COVID-19?

    You can protect your family by:

    Getting a COVID vaccine if eligible

    •  Even if your child is too young to receive the vaccine, you can help protect them by having eligible close contacts vaccinated

    Following good infection control practices regularly as follows:

    • Wash hands frequently for at least 20 seconds
    • Avoid touching eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands
    • Avoid contact with sick people
    • Avoid touching things in public spaces as much as possible
    • Avoid shaking hands with other people

    Practice good cough etiquette by:

    • Covering your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze and throw away used tissues as soon as you can
    • Cough into your elbow or the crook of your arm to reduce the spread of germs
    • Wash your hands or use hand sanitiser if you cough or sneeze on them

    Abide by social distancing:

    • Follow the latest advice from the DHHS website
    • Avoid crowds and busy places
    • Avoid contacts such as hugs, kisses, handshakes, high fives
    • Try elbow connection instead!
    • Avoid people who are unwell with cold or flu like symptoms (coughing, sneezing, runny nose). Maintain a distance of at least one metre

    You can encourage other people around you to do the same.

    Should I let my child return to school?

    The global pandemic has indeed placed us in challenging times. The prospect of kids returning to on-site learning raises questions and concerns for every parent, particularly those of children with underlying health conditions such as lung diseases. The following advice applies to the majority of children under our care and has been formulated after careful consideration by respiratory specialists within the Department of Respiratory and Sleep Medicine.  

    • This information is also available for download via the following PDF download.

    We recommend that children return to school when schools reopen for these reasons:

    1. Children benefit from school for many reasons. Attending school is not only good for learning, it is good for emotional and social development.
    2. In many parts of the world schools have remained open during the pandemic
    3. The government has undertaken many changes in response to scientific advice that will make schooling as safe as possible (see figure)
    4. Children who get COVID-19 usually get very mild or no illness
    5. Children with respiratory illness who get COVID-19 also usually get very mild or no illness.

      Return to school diagram small

    What can you do?

    • Ensure that all people in the household that are eligible for vaccination (everyone 12 years and older) gets vaccinated
    • For younger children (<12 years) who are currently ineligible for vaccination, do not wait for vaccination to return to school. There is a possibility that vaccines will not be available to younger children for some time and the recommendation for use are not yet clear.
    • If possible, teach your child to wear a mask at school
    • Ensure your child knows how to wash their hands and understands the school rules on social distancing
    • Do not send your child to school if they have any symptoms of any infection
    • If you have further questions about your individual child, please discuss these with your doctor

    What are HEPA purifiers/filters?

    A number of shared spaces including schools plan to use HEPA purifiers as a way to reduce the transmission risk of COVID-19. But what are they?

    • This information is also available for download via the following PDF download.

    HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) purifiers contain filters that are made of a dense net of fibres. These purifiers force forcing air through the mesh-like filters which then capture participles including pollen, smoke, dust, moisture, bacteria and viruses. This is different to a water-based purifier that uses a water reservoir as its filter

    Use for COVID-19 transmission and bushfires?

    Most people catch COVID-19 by inhaling it from shared air, and COVID particles can linger in the air in indoor spaces. HEPA purifiers can clear these potentially infectious aerosols. They have also been used in bushfire settings when windows are encouraged to remain closed. In these enclosed room settings, HEPA purifiers can work to capture the particulate matter released during bush fires.

    Shared spaces

    HEPA purifiers are therefore being implemented in shared spaces including schools. This is seen as an additional measure in reducing the risk of COVID-19 transmission until effective vaccine rates in the community are achieved.

    At home

    Some families have enquired about purchasing HEPA purifiers to use at home. At this stage we are not actively encouraging this. As a HEPA purifier is only effective in the room it is placed, there are limitations with how effective it is at home in mediating viral transmission. We do understand that mask wearing and social distancing is not practical at home. Instead, we encourage limiting spread within the home by having those eligible be vaccinated, getting tested if displaying symptoms and remaining vigilant with visitors to the home.

    Is it safe?

    When used correctly, HEPA filters are safe. As long as the filters are changed according to standard, there is minimal concern of HEPA filters recirculating caught particles or becoming a source for infection including pseudomonas. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been reports of users making homemade masks using HEPA filters intended for air purifiers. This is not recommended and can be unsafe. 

    Will wearing a mask prevent me from getting infected?

    We understand that SARS-COV2 is spread through aerosolised particles. Masks can help reduce this spread but not completely fool-proof. As such, wearing masks should be in addition to other measures including getting vaccinated if eligible, social distancing and hand hygiene. 

    As per DHHS recommendations, adults and children over the age of 12 must wear a face mask outside your home. 

    We recommend you reading the DHHS site on face masks available through this  link. It covers a range of questions including information on the types of masks to use and how to wear and care for your mask. Infants and children under the age of 12 are not required to wear a face covering. Due to the risk of choking it is not safe to use a mask on children under two years of age. 

    It remains our belief that the potential benefit of widespread use of masks is to reduce the risk of asymptomatic or minimally symptomatic adults spreading the virus rather than just protecting an individual from contracting the virus. Even before COVID-19, some respiratory patients such as our CF population routinely wore masks around the hospital to reduce the risk of cross-infection from CF germs. 

    Is it safe to attend a face-to-face outpatient clinic visit?

    Currently, outpatient appointments are predominantly being run via through telehealth appointments. Appointments will only be converted to face to face at the discretion of the clinician if clinically indicated. This is to minimalise the number of people attending the hospital, and protecting both staff and patients against contracting COVID-19.

    • You will be notified on your appointment letter if your appointment is to be conducted by telehealth or in person
    • If there is a planned change of appointment type, you will be contacted and informed of the change

    Our outpatient department is very experienced in working to prevent the spread of infection. Some additional measures taken include:

    • Families will be screened with a temperature check and questions prior to entering the outpatient department
    • Your attending clinician will be wearing personal protective equipment (PPE)
    • Clinic rooms will be cleaned after each patient visit
    • There will be limits on the number of people allowed into a clinic room

    For the latest information on how to attend the RCH hospital site and telehealth appointments please see https://www.rch.org.au/rch/Coronavirus_(COVID-19)/

    My child uses a nebuliser as part of their treatment. Are nebulisers safe to use? Will it increase my risk of contracting COVID?

    Many of our patients with chronic respiratory conditions use nebulisers as a method of administering their treatment. Some concern was raised following an outbreak of COVID within hotel quarantine which was linked to a guest who tested positive for coronavirus and was using a nebuliser.

    We want to clarify the following:

    • Nebulisers deliver treatment by aerosolising medication that is then breathed in by the user
    • Using a nebuliser is safe and does not increase the risk of the user contracting COVID
    • If the user is COVID negative, there is no increased risk of those around them to contracting COVID
    • If you or your child uses a nebuliser as part of routine care, please continue doing so
    • If your child is diagnosed with COVID and uses a nebuliser as part of their routine care, please contact your treating team to discuss options around potentially altering treatment plans to reduce COVID spread.

    What else can I do to help reduce the potential health impacts of COVID-19?

    Immunisations

    We highly recommend you have the 2021 influenza vaccine. We recommend all members of the family get vaccinated. Given the altered pattern in virus spread, we recommend getting vaccinated even beyond the Winter period

    Immunizations can be coordinated through the RCH immunisation centre:

    • Immunisation Service team has taken extra precautions and implemented procedures to control risks of and exposure to transmission of COVID-19 and is still open to patients, families and the community for all scheduled vaccines. 
    • We encourage families to contact the centre in advance to schedule an appointment 
    • Information on how to access the Immunisation centre and book an appointment can be found here:  https://www.rch.org.au/immunisation/

    Alternatively, you can attend your local GP practice or pharmacy to organise vaccinations for other family members.

    For a list of those who are eligible for free influenza vaccine, visit the health.vic website.

    Tobacco smoke

    We highly recommend your child avoid being around people who smoke.

    If you smoke, it is highly recommended you take measures to quit. People who smoke are five times more likely to get the flu and twice as likely to get pneumonia.

    Reducing or stopping tobacco smoke exposure is one of the best ways to protect yourself and your family from viral infections including coronavirus.