Back to School in 2023: Texas COVID-19 Prevention Habits for Kids

Despite a significant decline in COVID-19 cases, the virus remains highly contagious, particularly with recent upticks driven by factors like the changing weather and children returning to school. 

For the well-being of everyone, especially the immuno-compromised, it is crucial we continue teaching our children to take precautions, even with the benefits of vaccinations and boosters. 

As COVID-19 rates rise in fall 2023, ensuring your child is equipped to protect themselves and others as they return to school is a top priority.

Are Texas COVID-19 Cases Rising in Fall 2023?

According to Texas Health and Human Services, there have been at least 531,832 confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19 reported in Texas so far in 2023. Compared to previous years, that’s relatively low, but the numbers continue to rise as we march deeper into the year.

The new EG.5 variant of COVID-19 includes a strain many are referring to as “Eris,” with largely the same type of symptoms as previous variants.

Understanding COVID-19 Symptoms

It can be difficult to determine the severity of your child’s COVID-19 symptoms, and it may not always be clear if you should take your child to the emergency room or urgent care or simply let them recover at home.

That’s where at-home COVID-19 testing comes in. 

As of September 25, 2023, every U.S. household can request four more free at-home test kits delivered to their home. 

And if you need immediate testing, use the CDC’s online testing locator tool to find no-cost COVID-19 testing locations near you. 

There are differences between common COVID-19 symptoms and emergency warning signs of COVID-19 that can help you determine when to test or what kind of medical attention to receive.

Common COVID-19 symptoms include:

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea

Emergency warning signs of COVID-19 include:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
  • Confusion
  • Inability to wake or stay awake
  • Pale, gray, or blue-colored skin, lips, or nail beds, depending on skin tone

By paying attention to the symptoms and addressing them appropriately, you can help your child recover fast.

How to Teach Your Child COVID-19 Prevention Habits 

When addressing COVID-19 with your child, approach it as a gentle reminder. Consider their age and level of awareness; for kindergartners and younger children, simplify the explanation. 

You should reiterate that COVID-19 is a contagious illness that spreads easily among people and that we all have a role to play in preventing its spread. Remind your child that safety measures are not just for their well-being but also for the health of others, building on their existing understanding of the situation.

Teach your child the following three habits to help reduce the spread of COVID-19:

  • Cover Your Mouth When Sneezing or Coughing: Teach your child the importance of covering their mouth when sneezing or coughing to help prevent the spread of germs and viruses. Teach them to cough or sneeze into their armpit or a tissue when they need to cough or sneeze, especially if they choose to not wear a mask.
  • Hand Hygiene: Handwashing is a simple yet effective way to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Teach your child the proper way to wash their hands with soap and water for 20 seconds. They can also use hand sanitizers with at least 60% alcohol. Teach or remind your child to wash their hands before and after eating, after using the restroom, after coughing or sneezing, and after touching surfaces.
  • Smart Mask Use: Teach your child to use their best judgment when wearing masks. Explain that masks act as a shield, reducing the risk of COVID-19 spreading during close interactions, like crowded hallways or face-to-face conversations. While they may not need a mask outdoors or in spacious, uncrowded areas, remind them to wear one when it’s crowded or social distancing isn’t possible. Show them to wear their masks properly, covering their nose and mouth for maximum effectiveness. 
  • Social Distancing: It can be equally challenging for kids to practice social distancing. Remain supportive while staying clear and direct. Teach your child to keep a safe distance from classmates whenever possible. Demonstrate what it looks like to stand six feet apart. There may be situations when distancing isn’t feasible, such as in a crowded hallway or bus. This is where wearing a mask becomes especially useful.

How to Encourage COVID-19 Prevention Habits at School

If you notice your child is struggling with wearing a mask or practicing social distancing, try to empower them. Show them that you understand that precautions and changes can be challenging, and that you’re there to be supportive. 

With some practice and positive reinforcement, COVID-19 prevention habits can become an easy part of your child’s routine.

Encourage your child to stay vigilant against the virus with the following tips:

  • Be a Role Model: When your child sees you taking COVID-19 precautions seriously, they will be more likely to do the same. Wear your mask, practice social distancing, and maintain excellent hand hygiene. 
  • Make It a Routine: Consistency is key to forming habits. Wash your hands and sanitize before and after eating or when returning home. When you leave your home, grab a mask. When these actions become a part of your child’s daily life, they are more likely to remember and follow them.
  • Address Their Fears: Talk to your child about their fears related to COVID-19. Reassure them that COVID-19 rates are still decreasing, and that with the right precautions, they can keep themselves and their loved ones safe.
  • Stay Informed: Stay up to date about the latest news and guidelines from the CDC and local health authorities. Check in with your child, calmly share important information, and clear up any misconceptions they may have.
  • Encourage Healthy Habits: Encourage your child to eat nutritious foods, get enough sleep, and stay active. A strong immune system can help protect them from various illnesses, including COVID-19.
  • Have a Plan: Make sure your child knows what to do if they or someone they know has COVID-19 symptoms or tests positive for the virus. Explain the steps they should take, like staying home, notifying school authorities, and getting medical attention if necessary. 

In addition, make sure your child is up to date on their COVID-19 vaccinations and boosters.

Together, we can make your child’s return to school as safe as possible.

For more topics related to health and wellness, follow along with our Hospitality Health ER blog! We’ve recently covered related topics in The Latest on MIS-C: What We Know and What We Don’t and Unpacking the Benefits of Liquid Chlorophyll and Why Everyone’s Raving About It. For giveaways, updates, and COVID-19 tips, like us on Facebook and Instagram.