Dr. Sexter on WUSA9

Dr. Sexter got to talk to WUSA9 about the COVID-19 vaccine trial for kids.  Click here to hear her interview and read more!

COVID-19 Vaccine Trial

At Spring Valley Pediatrics our goal is to provide the best possible care for our patients. Sometimes it’s as straightforward as writing a prescription or giving a shot — other times the best therapy is still in development. That is why clinical trials are so important. Without clinical trials, it would be impossible to develop new medicines, vaccines, and cures for children.

 

Clinical trials offer more care options for our patients, especially those who struggle to find effective therapies currently on the market. Clinical trials also help us improve the standard of care for routine health care issues affecting children of all ages. In short, clinical studies help us deliver better care to our patients.

 

Spring Valley Pediatrics partners with Meridian Clinical Research. Together, we run clinical studies overseen by our practice’s physicians to help develop better therapies for the patients we see, and for people worldwide. If we believe a study is right for your child, someone from our office or Meridian may call you at our request. As physicians, we fully support the clinical studies you are contacted about. We encourage you to consider your child’s participation if you are contacted.

 

We are currently supporting the research of COVID-19 vaccines for children and teens. While several vaccines have been granted emergency use authorization for general populations, clinical trials are underway for sensitive populations, such as children, pregnant women, and people with immune disorders.

 

Eligible participants will receive an investigational vaccine or placebo at no cost. Health insurance is not needed to join. If you’re interested in children’s COVID-19 vaccine studies, please call (912) 623-2240 (Meridian call center) or sign up for more info at this link.

 

Compensation may be received for patient’s participation. Our clinical studies are held to incredibly high standards set by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Meridian. Every effort is made to ensure participant safety. If you have questions about the study process, or currently open studies, ask us next time you visit our office or simply call Meridian at (912) 623-2240 (the Meridian call center).

 

Participating in a clinical study is always optional. As always, your child’s health is our greatest priority, and we will continue to provide excellent traditional care. To support great leaps in medicine, we support clinical research. We hope you will, too.

Summer Camps 2021

Summer is just around the corner and after many months of limited activities during a long winter in a pandemic, many parents and children are looking forward to being outside and enjoying summer camp activities.  There are important physical and mental health benefits to summer camp.  Summer camps offer children opportunities for peer interaction, increased independence, leadership roles, exercise and the challenge of trying new things.  These experiences are even more significant given the social limitations that the COVID-19 pandemic has placed on children.  It will be important for parents to find summer camps that help children reestablish these important social connections while maintaining the important COVID-19 risk mitigation strategies to keep children healthy while at camp.  Below are some guidelines to consider when thinking about day camp and sleepaway camp for your children.

 

Day Camps

  • All camps should follow the CDC’s guidelines to maintain healthy environments for campers.  How will your camp implement these guidelines?
  • Creating a Healthy Camp Environment:  Camps should be clear that any camper or counselor experiencing COVID symptoms must remain at home and obtain a COVID test before returning to camp.  What are your camps protocols on daily screenings and quarantine requirements for exposed campers and/or staff?
  • Face Masks:  All campers and counselors should wear face masks.  Exceptions include children under 2 years of age or anyone that is having difficulty breathing.    
  • Physical Distancing:  Campers should maintain a physical distance of 6 feet.  Physical distancing is particularly important during times of high intensity activity.  How will the camp accommodate increased spacing of campers and counselors?
  • Limit Carpooling: Unvaccinated campers should ride to camp with people in their own household.  
  • Hygiene: Campers and staff should wash hands frequently.  Surfaces and shared objects should be wiped down often.
  • How many of the staff/counselors are vaccinated?  
  • How will camps monitor campers and staff daily for COVID-19 symptoms while at camp?  If a child develops symptoms, how will the camp manage sick children and facilitate their safe departure?  Will the camp notify other families if a child tests positive for COVID and what will the policy be?
  • What will be the maximum number of campers per group?  Will the same staff be assigned to the same group everyday?
  • How and how often will shared areas (bathrooms, lunch tables and craft rooms) be cleaned?

 

Sleepaway Camps

Most sleepaway camps plan to create a “bubble” this summer for children.  In order to do this, children and families will need to limit high risk activities and avoid large gatherings during the week before camp starts.  Most camps will require a COVID test before the camper arrives and many will perform COVID testing on campus once the camper arrives.  Questions to consider when thinking about sleepaway camps are the following:

  • How will camps structure the first week of camp?  Will the camp be able to perform COVID screening tests on all campers once they arrive at camp?  How many times will the campers be tested during the first week?  Will the camp be able to test throughout the duration of the camp session?  
  • Have most of the staff/counselors received the COVID vaccine?
  • Will children wear masks during the first few days of camp?  Will the children be in cohorts for the first week or for the entire camp session?  
  • How will the camp utilize and maximize outdoor spaces?
  • Will any activities take place indoors?
  • Where will children eat?  Inside or outside?
  • How will the camp implement the CDC’s guidance on hand hygiene and increased sanitization of charred surfaces?
  • Does the camp plan to hold parent visiting days?  Unfortunately, most camps will not be able to have camp visiting days as the arrival of many people outside the camp bubble carries the risk of bringing COVID into the camp environment.  If your child’s camp is hosting a visiting day, it is important to ask the camp how they plan to mitigate the risk of COVID exposure.   
  • What is the camp’s plan for a child that has developed COVID like symptoms?  Have they created a place to isolate sick children?  Will the camper be sent home to recuperate and when can they return to camp?  And of course, if a camper does test positive for COVID, how will the camp manage quarantining bunkmates and other staff or campers exposed to the sick camper?  

 

Sports Camps

It is important that children, who have not been competing and practicing athletics at the same level as they did pre-COVID, return to sports slowly.  An emphasis on increasing strength and conditioning is very important to limit injuries in athletes who are undoubtedly not in the same physical shape that they were before the pandemic.  Sports camps and parents should be particularly aware of the importances of returning to sports slowly and carefully to mitigate risk of injury.

 

Sports Post-COVID

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that any child that was diagnosed with COVID in the past 6 months,  even asymptomatic infections,  must be seen in person and evaluated by a pediatrician to be cleared to return to sports.

 

There are so many important medical and mental health benefits of summer camp for children and being able to return safely to camp will be an exciting and long awaited experience for many.  It is important to consider each child’s underlying medical history and to weigh the risks and benefits of returning to camp.  If you have specific questions about summer camp for your child, please don’t hesitate to call to discuss with your pediatrician at Spring Valley. 

FASTING LABS

You’re probably used to getting blood drawn at your yearly check up with your doctor.  We use these tests to glean all kinds of information about our patients.  Depending on the age of the patient we may check for anemia (not enough red blood cells), lead level, Vitamin D, and cholesterol.  For routine blood tests, our patients can have them done anytime regardless of if they have recently eaten.  However, sometimes we ask that our patients have fasting labs done.  How do you do them and why are they done?

Fasting labs mean that you don’t eat or drink anything besides water for 8-12 hours before coming in for your blood draw.  You can have dinner the night before but nothing to eat in the morning before coming to the office.  You can, and should, take any medications you would normally take in the morning.

Be sure to drink water – lots and lots of water!  When you are dehydrated (don’t have enough water in your body) your veins are smaller which makes it harder to draw your blood.  You also may feel light-headed if you have not had enough water to drink.  Feel free to bring a snack with you to enjoy once your blood is drawn.

Fasting labs give us a more accurate look at your cholesterol, triglycerides and glucose (blood sugar).  When you eat or drink, nutrients and ingredients enter your blood stream and can falsely elevate these tests.  A fasting test gives your doctor more accurate information about your body.

If  you are not sure if you should fast before your labs, call our office to ask.

 

Breastfeeding and the COVID-19 Vaccine

With the COVID-19 vaccine becoming more available to the general population, many families have reached out with questions.  Is it safe to receive it while breastfeeding?  If so, does it offer any protection to the baby?

The bottom line is we don’t know yet.  Studies are ongoing but, based on the science behind them, mRNA vaccines (like the Pfizer and Moderna shots) are not believed to be a risk to the breastfeeding infant.  Both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) agree that the COVID-19 vaccine should be offered to lactating women.  There is even the likely possibility that antibodies your body makes against COVID-19 will pass to your infant through your breastmilk and offer protection.

Data is being constantly collected and information is being updated daily.  Follow up with the links above to get the most current recommendations and always discuss your questions or concerns with your physician.

How to sign up for a COVID-19 Vaccine

Though we are not currently a site for administration of the COVID-19 vaccines, we want to make sure everyone who is eligible is able to get the vaccine as soon as possible.  This includes children as young as 12 years old who can now receive the Pfizer vaccine.

The CDC also has a COVID-19 Vaccination Location finder that can help connect you to the closest vaccine site.  Similarly, CVS allows patients to sign up for vaccine appointments throughout the area.  More area specific websites are listed below.

WASHINGTON, DC

VIRGINIA

MARYLAND

Grandparents and COVID – when can we all get together?

As we come upon the one-year mark of the pandemic with much of our everyday lives still drastically changed, there is at least hope on the horizon in the form of vaccines.  By now, millions of Americans have received a COVID-19 vaccine with the promise of them made available to all adults before summer arrives.  This is exciting and life-saving news – but how exactly will it alter our activities and the decisions we make for our loved ones?

One of the big questions families are facing – and therefore have been posing to us – is can vaccinated grandparents spend time with unvaccinated grandchildren?  Though some pediatric vaccines trials are underway with many more to follow, it will be quite some time before a COVID-19 vaccine is approved for our children.  Not seeing grandparents and other loved ones for over a year has already been a hardship and families are hoping to safely spend time together again.

Like many of the questions about living in a pandemic, there is no perfect, one-size-fits-all answer.  Much depends on an individual family’s situation and the risk they are able and willing to take on.  This is a decision that each family will have to make on their own but there is some helpful scientific data to guide these discussions.

Studies have shown that the available COVID-19 vaccines are incredibly effective at preventing serious illness and death from the novel coronavirus.  However, at this time we do not know if it prevents asymptomatic infection or contagiousness.  So while a vaccinated adult is well protected from becoming gravely ill from the virus, he or she is not completely invincible.  There is the possibility that a vaccinated grandparent could still become infected – perhaps without showing any signs of it – and pass it on to others who are vulnerable to the virus.  With time, new data will provide clarity at whether the vaccines are effective at preventing transmission.

Thankfully though, this is a much safer situation than before there was a vaccine since loved ones are protected from serious sequalae of the disease.  As of Monday, March 8th, the CDC states that once you are fully vaccinated (which is 2 weeks after your second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna shot or two weeks after your Johnson & Johnson shot), you can gather indoors with fully vaccinated people without wearing a mask.  Even more exciting for families, you can gather indoors with unvaccinated people from one other household without masks, assuming there is no one at high risk in the home.

As more and more people are vaccinated and the numbers of COVID-19 infections decrease, these recommendations will likely loosen up and we will continue to provide updates to our patients and families.  You can always reach out to your physician if you have specific questions about COVID-19 and the best ways to keep you and your family safe and healthy.  The CDC website is also a wonderful resource and their current guidelines can be accessed here.

COVID-19 Testing at Spring Valley Pediatrics

Reopening: What to consider before sending older children to summer camps

Navigating camps during a pandemic is not an easy task.  Thankfully Dr. Ashley Moss has laid out some important points to think about before sending your child out the door.

COVID restrictions have forced a healthy reprieve from our overscheduled, hectic lives but now that some summer activities and camps are reopening, a little bit of structure, exercise, and time with friends sounds appealing.  So are “socially distanced” summer camps something that would work for your family?  Just like child care, each family is different in terms of the risk that they are able, due to underlying medical conditions, or willing to accept.  Here are a few important things to consider when deciding if summer camp this summer is right for your family.

  • Will the camp be regularly following and implementing the CDC’s guidelines for summer camps? The CDC outlines measures to promote behaviors that decrease the risk of infection spread, guidelines for safe operations, and protocol for what to do when someone becomes sick at camp.
  • How will camps monitor campers and staff daily for COVID-19 symptoms?If a child develops symptoms while at camp, how will the camp manage sick children and facilitate their safe departure?  Will the camp notify other families if a child tests positive for COVID and what will the policy be?  Will the camp close and if so for how long?
  • How will the camp encourage social distancing?
  • How much time will campers spend outside and how much time, if any, inside?
  • Who will be required to wear face coverings at camp?When at camp will face coverings be required?
  • How will infection control strategies (social distancing, hand washing, proper use of face coverings) be implemented?
  • Does the camp have adequate supply of tissues, hand soap, hand sanitizer, and cleaning products?How will the camp be effectively cleaning and disinfecting surfaces?
  • What will be the maximum number of campers per group?Will the same staff be assigned to the same group everyday?
  • How and how often will shared areas (bathrooms, lunch tables and craft rooms) be cleaned?

It is important for each family to weigh the benefit of summer camp against the risk of exposure to the virus.  If your child has an underlying medication condition such as chronic lung disease, asthma, heart problems, severe obesity, diabetes, kidney or liver disease, or are immunocompromised, or if your children are exposed to elderly grandparents or someone who is immunocompromised, you consider alternative activities to summer camps where even small groups of people will increase your child’s risk of exposure to the virus.

We at Spring Valley Pediatrics are more than happy to discuss any questions that you may have and help you make the best decision for your family.

 

COVID-19 Testing