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Mother and son in at home under pandemic quarantine. Mother and son sitting next to window in masks as mom puts hand sanitizer on boy's hands.

How to Protect Children with a Compromised Immune System

By: Dr. Eric Lowe, CHKD oncologist

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, families everywhere have been trying to determine what they should do – or should not do – to keep their children safe from infection.

For those who have children with compromised immune systems, this challenge has been amplified by the understanding that having a lowered immunity may make it harder to fight a COVID-19 infection. This group includes cancer patients on therapy, patients with an immune deficiency, and patients who take medication that weakens their immune system.

As state authorities lessen some of the restrictions that have been in place and more people socialize together, it’s important for parents and patients to understand that the novel coronavirus has not disappeared. That’s why we advise our patients and their families to remain vigilant. Fortunately, we do know there are many things parents and caregivers can do to protect their immunocompromised child during this pandemic.

Wear a cloth face covering when in public.

This is probably the single most important thing you and your child can do to protect yourselves as well as those around you.

Face coverings are not recommended for all children, particularly infants, babies, and toddlers. Most children will be able to wear a face covering safely by age 3, but every child is different.

Continue to practice social distancing.

Although more people are heading outside the home as statewide restrictions lift, you can help protect your child from getting infected by maintaining the principles of social distancing:

  • Keep six feet of distance between your child and other people.
  • Help your child avoid crowds of people.
  • Avoid using mass transit when possible.
  • Avoid anyone who is sick.

Continue to practice good hygiene.

  • Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Make sure your child washes their hands frequently, too. Or use hand sanitizer.
  • Remind your child to avoid touching their eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Clean frequently touched surfaces – phones, keyboards, doorknobs, light switches, and countertops.
  • It’s important that your child does not hug other people or shake anyone’s hand.

Stay up to date with your child’s medical care.

Do not delay any appointments or medical care that your child needs. Postponing appointments or not seeking medical attention can harm your child’s health.

Follow safety guidelines during your appointment.

Throughout the hospital, safety measures have been put into place to protect patients, visitors, and staff. All staff are wearing masks while they work, and visitors and patients age 3 and older are wearing masks as well.

In the Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center, additional safety precautions have been put into place:

  • Appointments have been spaced to minimize the number of patients being seen at the same time.
  • The waiting room is no longer in use. Patients and their parent or caregiver go directly to a private room. Staff come to them to administer all care.
  • A separate sick entrance has been set up to allow patients who are ill to enter separately.
  • Two rooms are reserved every day specifically for sick patients. Any patient who has a fever or may have coronavirus is tested immediately with a two-hour turnaround time for results.

Visit our COVID-19 hematology/oncology page for important updates concerning our patient care.

Dr. Eric Lowe is the division director for Pediatric Hematology/Oncology at CHKD. He has been at CHKD since 2004 and has a special interest in clinical research. He is the primary investigator for CHKD on over 50 clinical trials for patients with cancer.

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About Children's Specialty Group

About Children's  Specialty Group Children's Specialty Group is the only pediatric multi-specialty practice serving southeastern Virginia and northeastern North Carolina. The physicians of Children's Specialty Group base their practices at Children's Hospital of The King's Daughters and serve as faculty in the Department of Pediatrics at Eastern Virginia Medical School. Learn more about our specialists here.