During the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, kids with special health care needs still need routine care. But how they get it might change. Some medical visits are being done over the phone or through telehealth. Here's more on what to expect during this challenging time.

Are Kids With Special Health Needs More at Risk From COVID-19?

Few kids have been found to have the illness. So it's hard for experts to yet know how COVID-19 might affect kids with ongoing health problems. To stay safe and avoid infection, follow the advice from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other health experts. Be sure to:

Should I Take My Child to Planned Health Care Visits?

Talk to your health care provider. Many doctor's offices are scheduling in-person visits. Some appointments may be video visits (telehealth). If your child has an in-person visit, talk to the office about how they are keeping kids and families safe. The medical staff will be wearing masks. You and your child should wear them also. Reassure your child that these are safe and there's no reason to be scared.

Should I Keep Giving My Child's Regular Daily Medicines?

Yes. Keep giving all regular daily medicines unless the care team tells you to stop. The best way to keep kids healthy is to take care of their health condition. Being in their best health will make it easier for kids to get better from coronavirus if they do get the infection.

Keep at least 2–3 weeks of medicine and other needed supplies on hand at all times. Work with your insurance and home medical supply companies to order refills well before they run out.

Should My Child Still Get Chemotherapy or Other Medicines That Affect the Immune System?

Yes. Continue chemotherapy or any other medicines that can weaken the immune system until you talk to the care team. Only stop medicines if the care team tells you to.

Follow these guidelines to prevent infection:

  • Keep 6 feet apart from people you don't live with (called physical or social distancing)
  • Wear a face covering or mask when out and not able to distance from others.
  • Wash hands well and often.

Should Home Health Care Providers Still Come to the House? How Can I Keep Everybody Safe?

Home health care providers play an important role in caring for some kids with special health needs. Talk with your care team about your child's in-home care providers. Ask if they're all needed now. Any care provider who is sick shouldn't help care for your child.

Ask care providers to wear a face covering or mask while in your home and when caring for your child. They should wash their hands well for at least 20 seconds when they arrive, and often while they provide care. Set up hand-washing stations with plenty of soap and paper towels. Keep hand sanitizer close by as well. Post signs as reminders to clean hands.

What if My Child Gets Sick? Could It Be COVID-19?

First, call the health care team. They know your child's health history and will know if your child has any special risks. The doctor will ask how your child is doing and if they've been around someone with known or suspected coronavirus. Your doctor's office will tell you what to do next and whether you need an in-person visit.

If your child has a central line, is on chemotherapy, or has a weak immune system, follow the usual instructions for what to do for fever. Usually, this means calling the care team right away.

How Can We Handle Stress While Caring for Our Child With Special Needs?

  • Control what you can. Structure your day with a routine.
  • Try to focus on being in the moment with mindfulness, guided imagery (look for videos online), or yoga.
  • Take a walk outside. Wear a mask if you can't keep a safe distance from others. Or do active things inside.
  • Keep in touch with your child's care team so you do not feel alone.
  • Go easy on yourself. Do your best to manage what you can. Things will get better.
  • If you feel stressed, get support from family. A phone call or a video visit can go a long way. If you are feeling overwhelmed, call 911. You also can call the Disaster Distress Helpline at 1-800-985-5990 or go to their website.
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Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor. © 1995-2021 KidsHealth®. All rights reserved. Images provided by The Nemours Foundation, iStock, Getty Images, Veer, Shutterstock, and Clipart.com.