Doctor: Keeping children home causes more harm than going back to class

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COLUMBUS (WCMH) – A pediatrician said keeping students out of the classroom appears to cause more harm than being back in school.

During Gov. Mike DeWine’s coronavirus update Thursday, Dr. Christopher Peltier, with the Pediatric Associates of Mt. Carmel, reassured parents who might be worried bout sending children back to school and what it will look like once classes resume.

Citing a study by the American Academy of Pediatrics, Peltier said risks of students being in school outweigh the risk posed to students who are not in classrooms, citing mental health support as something students receive in schools that may be missed at home.

“While children are 24 percent of the population across the country, the children only make up about two percent of COVID cases,” he said. “We do know there’s been a lot of data over the last several months that support that children do not get COVID as frequently as us adults do and, for the most part, when they get it, they may not show as many symptoms and they are not as severely ill.”

Peltier said that while that is not an absolute fact and that some have developed serious illness and inflammatory disease, by and large, “children have tended to do better during this pandemic than adults.”

Peltier said the state’s guidelines are endorsed by the Ohio chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, which represents nearly 3,000 pediatricians across the state.

“Less risk does not mean no risk,” he said. “So while the guidelines the governor is producing today mitigate risk, we can never completely eliminate all risk. We do know that kids who are in school do more than just learn math and science. They learn social and emotional skills, they have access to healthy meals and exercise, and I think one of the most important things as a pediatrician, they get access to mental health support.”

Peltier said he and his colleagues are seeing an increase of patients seeking help for anxiety and depression since the pandemic began.

“These factors, when severe, can lead to teen suicide attempts,” he said.

During the quarantine, there was a sharp decrease in anxiety and depression screenings in teens across the county, which Peltier said was due to patients not being seen by their pediatricians and students not being inside classrooms, where teachers and aides can often address such matters.

“The thing I would say first and foremost to parents is as pediatricians, we want you to know that we recognize that you’re worried,” Peltier said. “We get it. We hear it all the time from you and we know that. We, of course, want children to be safe as well.”

Peltier said return policies set by school districts should take into consideration the safety of children, their families, and their communities.

 “What I would tell parents is, number 1, stay current on your well visits and your vaccinations,” Peltier said, adding that vaccinations for measles/mumps/rubella fell by nearly 50 percent nationwide for March and April, posing a second threatening disease on top of the coronavirus.

“We know what it’s like to live with one pandemic,” he said. “Thinking about a second disease coming back and creating problems is really scary for us that are peditricians.”

Peltier said doctors’ offices are reopened and safe, encouraging parents to have their children seen by their family’s doctor.

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