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


Calling all moms-to-be! One of the most important decisions you can make leading up to your baby’s debut is selecting a pediatrician that is a good fit for your family. Read on for tips from Dr. Jessica Long  on what to look and questions to ask when interviewing potential pediatricians.

Finding out you’re pregnant is such an exciting time!   After the initial thrill and announcing the news to friends and families, you suddenly realize there is so much you need to accomplish before this little one makes his or her debut. If you’re like me, you suddenly have a to-do list a mile long that includes practical things like buying a car seat as well as slightly neurotic endeavors like deep cleaning the floor boards of the entire house (it’s called “nesting” for a reason). One thing you definitely want to cover before your due date is choosing a pediatrician.

As both a mom and a pediatrician, I naturally have some insight into what you should look for in choosing a practice and a doctor for your baby. This is someone you will be spending a lot of time with, especially in the first year of your baby’s life, and who will get to know you and your family for decades to come. She will support you through challenging times and illnesses as well as celebrate your child’s growth and milestones. She will provide sound medical and practical advice when the internet tells you to panic, or to cure your baby’s runny nose by burning toadstools under her crib, or to put your sniffly infant on a three-week juice cleanse. The relationship between a pediatrician and her families is filled with trust, respect and caring – how do you pick someone who can provide this for you?

First off, ask around. Friends, family, and coworkers can be a great place to start before you do your own research. Make sure the physician is certified by the American Board of Pediatrics, which is in charge of training and board-certifying pediatricians across the country. You likely want a practice that is relatively close – like I said, you’ll be spending plenty of time with your pediatrician. Next, schedule a meet and greet to check out the practice and get to know the physicians there.

When you visit the office, make sure there are separate waiting areas for well children and sick children (an additional space designated for infants only is even better!). Especially for your baby’s routine first-year visits, it’s a big comfort to know that there’s an extra layer of protection between you and the teenager who got mono at soccer camp.

Besides just seeing if you “vibe” with the physician you meet, there are some important questions you’ll want to get the answers to as well. Be sure to ask what happens if your child gets sick or hurt outside of normal office hours and you need to ask a question. Is there a physician you can reach by phone or a nurse triage line? What are weekend and holiday hours? How easy is it to talk directly to your pediatrician? As a mom I can promise you your child will become ill at the least convenient time (vomiting as you get on an airplane, ear infection on Christmas morning) but knowing what aid your pediatrician can offer during those moments can be a big relief. Be sure to ask how quickly you can be scheduled for a sick visit and what wait times typically are once you’ve checked in. You already likely know what a pain it can be to wait to see a doctor – now imagine doing that with a sick child.

You probably have already thought about things such as breastfeeding and immunizations, and you want to make sure you have a supportive physician. Is lactation support available? Does she advocate for the immunization schedule recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics and Centers for Disease Control? You don’t want any unvaccinated children in the waiting room who could expose your little one to an illness he is too young to be vaccinated against.

While you are pregnant it may seem silly to think ahead to “big kid” needs but now is the time to ask. What is the turn around time for school and camp forms and is there an additional charge? What happens if your child has to be admitted to a hospital or see a specialist – what role will your pediatrician play in those situations? How long can your child continue to see the pediatrician before graduating to an adult physician?

Perhaps most importantly, is this a physician you feel you can talk to and trust? You will, after all, be calling him in the middle of the night the first time your baby has a fever or seeking his guidance when your little one goes through a frustrating sleep strike. As a pediatrician, I greatly value the relationship I get to make with my patients and their families (it’s the best part of my job) and want to make sure they feel the same way. Doing your research before your due date allows you to find the right fit for you.

Choosing a pediatrician is ultimately a personal decision. It doesn’t matter if you have the world’s most brilliant doctor on speed dial if you don’t feel comfortable asking for and following her advice. But I hope it comes as no surprise that I think Spring Valley Pediatrics does all the big and little things right.

Whether you are newly pregnant, new to the area, or just looking for a change, we love meeting new families at Spring Valley. We are open 365 days a year so if your little one wakes up with a fever on a weekend morning or Thanksgiving Day, he can be seen. We try to be incredibly accessible to our families, offering a call in time each weekday morning where you can talk to your physician directly. After hours one of our physicians is on call 24/7 and happy to answer your urgent questions. We find that our patients and families are most comfortable when they can see the same pediatrician for all visits and strive to ensure you always see your doctor for well and sick visits. If you want to learn more and check out our office and physicians, call our office for a complimentary new patient consultation at 202-966-5000. We look forward to meeting you and your family!


Babies and Spit Up – When to See the Pediatrician

For many first-time parents, baby spit up can be a bit terrifying. There is a very fine line between what is “normal” and when you should seek help from your pediatrician.  Dr. Jessica Long helps to clear up some common spit up misconceptions…

When I found out I was pregnant with my first daughter, I daydreamed about lazy mornings cuddling with her, taking long walks together through our neighborhood, introducing her to all of my favorite childhood spots in DC, and of course all of the adorable clothes. What did not play a starring role in my motherhood fantasy was the amount of spit up that would end up on her, me, my husband, the dog, and really anything within a four foot diameter after she ate. Her spitting caused her no distress and certainly did not slow down her impressive weight gain but wow did it lead to a lot of laundry.

Spit up is an incredibly common baby phenomenon. In fact, more than half of babies younger than 3 months old spit up daily. For most babies, gastroesopahgeal reflux (GER) is a natural occurrence that, while annoying, causes no health problems and improves with time.   However, in some babies it may cause complications – in which case we call it GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) – and requires evaluation by your pediatrician.

For all of those parents out there with “happy spitters” who smile while you grab your tenth burp cloth of the morning, there are thankfully some simple things you can do to help reduce the amount of curdled milk you are scrubbing off the sofa.

First off, there’s only so much room in that tiny baby belly and if it gets overfilled with milk there is nowhere for it to go but out. Do your best to not overfeed your baby. Also, try to minimize gas in your baby’s belly so that, as a gas bubble escapes, it doesn’t bring up half the meal as well. Some babies need to take burp breaks in the middle of their feeding as well as at the end in order to not have a wet burp down your back shortly after eating.

While tummy time is important for motor development and can help to relieve gas, it is best to avoid it right after feeding. That extra pressure on the stomach is more likely to send its contents all over the living room rug. Holding your baby upright for 20-30 minutes after eating also helps to keep everything in her stomach right where it belongs.

Still spending more time with the laundry machine than enjoying that sweet social smile of your baby? It is important to have regular follow up with your pediatrician to ensure that gastroesophageal disease is ruled out. Talk with your pediatrician to see if diet changes would be helpful. Some breastfed babies may be sensitive to dairy or egg and having mom avoid these foods could cut down on spit ups. Similarly, a formula fed baby might prefer a hydrolyzed formula. Adding a small amount of oatmeal to bottle feedings has also been shown to help reduce the amount of spit up. However, chat with your baby’s doctor before altering anyone’s diet.

With spit up, time is the best remedy. As your child grows, spitting up will be less of an issue and your little one will be on to new and exciting problems such as desperately wanting to play with electrical outlets and finding every choking hazard accidentally left around your house. Parenthood is a journey and spit ups will soon be a distant memory. The overabundance of laundry in your home will unfortunately be an ongoing problem.

Travel Consults

We now offer comprehensive Travel Consults. Please call to schedule an appointment and let us know where and when you will be traveling. When you come for your consult, we will discuss your plans and administer any vaccinations that you may need (including the Yellow Fever Vaccine).