It’s important to know the difference between “quarantine” because of a possible exposure to COVID-19 and “isolation” because a person is diagnosed and sick. Understanding these terms and following the guidance associated with each are critical steps for containing further spread.
Dr. Hanna Lemerman, an Akron Children’s Hospital pediatrician in Fairlawn, explains how these terms differ and offers guidance for parents and caregivers.
In their simplest terms, what’s the difference behind quarantine and isolation?
Quarantine is for well people who have been exposed. Quarantine helps prevent the spread of disease by keeping someone who has been exposed to COVID-19 away from others. This means staying at home and monitoring their health for 14 days because they could develop symptoms during that time.
Isolation is for sick people who are contagious. Isolation helps keep individuals who have been infected with COVID-19 or suspected to have COVID-19 away from others. If possible, parents should separate sick family members from well family members by using different bathrooms and bedrooms. Patients with COVID-19 need to isolate for 10 days and cannot return until they are fever-free for 24 hours and their symptoms have greatly improved.
What should families do who can’t follow these strict recommendations?
Isolation and quarantine pose many challenges for families, especially balancing work with childcare, or even getting food for a family. We understand how stressful this is for families. Even so, it is important to follow these guidelines to limit the spread of COVID-19 in the community. Our Population Health team is an important resource for families who are financially stressed and need assistance with food, housing, or childcare. Your pediatrician can connect you with our social workers and care coordinators.
When one child in a household must quarantine or isolate, do all other children in the household need to follow the same protocols?
Parents and caregivers should try to isolate the sick child from healthy family members when possible using a separate room and bathroom. All family members who have been exposed to the sick child must quarantine for 14 days from the date of their last exposure. Based on revised guidance from the CDC, local circumstances and resources could allow quarantine to end after 10 days if no symptoms are reported during daily monitoring, with final determination for quarantine duration by the local health department.
When should parents call a doctor – or request a test – when they fear their child has something or was exposed to another person with coronavirus?
In short, parents and caregivers should call their pediatrician when their child is sick or when they have questions about their child’s health. It is hard to distinguish between the common cold, influenza and COVID-19, so their child may be tested if they have symptoms. COVID-19 guidelines change frequently, and it is hard for families to keep up on the latest recommendations. Rely on your pediatrician for timely guidance.
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