Making in Through the COVID-19 Quarantine: Seven Things That Preteens and Teenagers can do
March 12, 2020
I did my first COVID-19 testing swabs yesterday. When the testing tent personnel see a small child and need help, the pediatrician on call comes out. That was me yesterday. It was the first time I’ve worn the precious N-95 mask and gowned in full PPE. These were just pre-admission COVID-19 swabs on kids with complex medical issues, so these children are a lower risk category. But I felt helpful. One toddler was my own patient, and it felt good to wave to the mother and to know that I was a familiar set of eyes behind the faceshield. The other patient belonged to another pediatrician and had many complex medical issues. It was a very large truck and the adult nurse wanted me to do the swab through the window. Please remember I’m not even 5’2″, this was a very large truck, and the child was a tiny little thing smaller than her age due to chronic medical issues. It helps that I have been in charge of things for a while, and I know what I know well and know what I don’t know. I suggested to the nurse, “There is no way I’m going to be able to get this swab into her nose. I need to open that door. I’m too short and my arms are not that long.” So I opened the door and asked mom to hold her, and positioned my body to prevent her from falling out of the truck. And then gently used the precious swab to touch the back of her pharnyx both sides, and then did a nasopharyngeal swab in the left nostril. Done. She cried just a little bit and was fine. Mother was filming on her iPhone. Everyone does that these days. I didn’t think it was the time to ask her to stop filming (I think its against official policy). But everyone films these days and I’m sure it is just to document the little girls journey. I waved into the iPhone camera. Then mom put the phone down to give her child a hug.
I felt a sense of progression yesterday. I had finally done my first two swabs and I knew the workflow. I saved the precious N-95 in a paper bag for later when I will be on call and wiped down my faceshield. I had tested two little kids for their preop COVID-19 swabs, and will probably swab more over the course of the next year. But the first few of anything, are always the most memorable.
But yesterday was spent mostly seeing well babies who needed vaccines in clinic. I had a lot of phone calls (virtual medicine) yestserday and it was mostly my preteens and teenagers. I talked to many of you yesterday. One teen recovering from an eating disorder. Another teen with anxiety and some chest pain. One with sleep problems. Someone with some upper neck and back pain. After closely listening to their stories and symptoms, a majority of you (teens and preteens) were having difficulty with the COVID-19 quarantine and the secondary consequences of not being as active, being more lonely, starting distance learning, and just suffering from having life turned upside down. It was wonderful to hear your voices and “to see” a few of you yesterday. Before the quaratine you were very busy and hardly ever able to get in to see me and sometimes did not pay attention to the things I was trying to teach you. But yesterday all of you welcomed my call and asked me to call back. You even thanked me for being your pediatrician! It really warmed me heart because I care about you guys a lot. You are around the ages of my own children right now. I have many follow up calls with you in 1-2 weeks to make sure my prescribed treatments worked, and I am happy to do them.
I am writing this for my preteens and teenagers who have not yet seen me, or those that are in the blogsphere just seeking guidance. It’s amazing the junk that is out on the internet, which is half the reason I keep on blogging. Insert standard disclaimer: If you are a patient, this blog is for entertainment purposes and environmental advocacy only – so please go through normal procedures to contact me at the office through the patient portal. I recommend everyone contact their own medical providers for patient specific advice.
Preteens and Teenagers: How Do You Make it Through the COVID-19 Quarantine?
- Try to Get Dressed for School on Most Days: There is a sense of the days running into eachother. School and home, home and work, church and home – everything is at home, especially you. You can demarcate the day by what you are wearing. If the quarantine had only been 8 weeks, I think it would have been fine for us to live in pajamas and scrubs. But now it will be many more months of this. Try to put on your normal school clothes during the school day, and then change at 3pm into your more comfortable clothes. Then on the weekend you will feel it is more special. Initially I was wearing scrubs to work, which are glorified doctor and nurse pajamas. But now I am putting on my normal work clothes. On Mondays I wear scrubs because I am “on call” that day and have to do the COVID-19 swabs if we require it. And on Wednesday, I’ve taken to wear very fancy clothes to amuse our nurses! I wore a Harry Potter cloak a few Wednesdays ago and then a fancy blue dress three Wednesdays ago for Autism Awareness Week.
- Eat a Light “Normal” School Lunch: During the normal school day, you would usually have eaten a light lunch (sandwhich, piece of fruit, and maybe a few crackers). Try to treat lunch now the same. This I learned from my daughter. I find her very wise and she has learned to organize her day to get through this quarantine. I really want everyone to drink water out of a reusable water bottle next to your study area, and please please please eat a piece of fruit in the afternoon including the peel. You need the fiber. An apple, a pear, cucumber – something. Maybe even some bell peppers which can be very sweet if you don’t have Taste-Bud Dysfunction https://drplasticpicker.com/taste-bud-dysfunction-lets-dial-down-the-salt-and-sugar-in-snacks/.
- School Work Should Be Done at a Table and Proper Chair: I have been receiving a lot of messages and doing many virtual visits regarding preteen and teen neck and back pain. This is in part due to distance learning, and being on the computer at home more. One of the best pieces of advice I received was in 7th grade Junior High School. An outreach group from the local university came out to speak to our English class and the college student’s advice to us, was to set up your study area for succcess. Try to find a small area in the house that is yours to study, and try to prepare the best ergonomics as possible. Your parents should be able to help you with this. You usually don’t need to buy fancy furniture, but try to have a table and a chair where your feet are planted firmly on the floor and you sit property. Many of you are sitting on the coach and on your bed. Even the kitchen table is better than the bed. Also after about 15-20 minutes of sustained screen time or studying, try to stand up or walk around a bit to stretch out your body. Do not go to the kitchen to get a snack, as many of you are snacking too much. Maybe fill your reusable water bottle and put it in a place where you can walk to and can take a quick sip. This encourages you to get up and move your body, and then hydrate.
- Try to get 30 minutes of aerobic exercise a day: Many of you have had your sports cancelled. For most athletes, they actually are doing okay during this quarantine because they already knew a lot about stretching and stationary exercises. In general my more sedentary patients who were not involved in organized sports are having more neck and back problems, and weight gain. This is not surprising. It’s even more important now for everyone to get some aerobic exercise. Much of your pre-quarantine exercise was likely just walking around school and life, and now you can’t do that. But I want everyone to either jog or speed walk 30 minutes around the block with your parents. Practice 6 feet physical distancing, and wear a mask for when you are walking or near people. If you start feel light headed and are breathing heavily, please take that mask off in a safe place! You are going to breath too much carbon dioxide and will pass out! I am sure you can figure out how to safely jog or brisk walk 30 minutes at least with a family member. This is likely the most important thing you can do. Dr. Plastic Picker just came back from a plogging session and I feel great. I know the remainder of my day will go well because I have done my exercise.
- Incorporate Stretching and Some Strength/Weight Exercises: At these times when you are sheltering-in-place, it is very important to stretch and do some weight /strength exercises. There are many resources on the web that you can find. You don’t need anything new, and probably have some free weights at home. Please try to spend at least 10 minutes (hopefully more!) doing some stretching and some strength training. Dr. Plastic Picker is just doing some exercises that our son’s high school coaches posted on the school website, spider-man push ups, ham-string stretches, and I am using the free weights that belong to Mr. Plastic Picker. I bet you have family members that have some weight training knowledge, so reach out to them. I’m sure they are going to feel nice helping you.
- Do Something Good for Someone Else: This seems so counter-intuitive. You are having a hard time with COVID-19 self quarantine, yet I’m asking you to help someone else? Yes. When you do something altruisitc or beneficial to someone else without any expectation of reward, you actually feel better psychologically. This is why Dr. Plastic Picker is so happy. When I go to work, I am paid to help you. I try to do it well as you know, but it’s part of my job. I do get satisfaction from being your pediatrician, but your parents have paid their premiums and taxes and I get a stable salary. When I pick up trash though, I do it for the world and for the children. I don’t expect anything back. I don’t monetize this blog with ads. And the psychologic benefit to me has been enormous. Every single piece of trash I pick up or every blog I write that is just for the world to read, it a boost to my morale. You can do the same. I recommended to someone today to attend her youth group Zoom meeting. She is on the upper age range of the group, but I suggested she can try to be a mentor for the younger members.
- Go Somewhere Else? No physically since you still have to be at home. But go somewhere in your imagination. Listen to music that transports you to a different place. Read a book that absorbs your entire being. Dr. Plastic Picker is doing a lot of writing, and I am watching a lot of Star Trek. CBS All Access is a pretty good deal and I think your parents will approve of the morals that Star Trek teaches.
I hope you found this post helpful. Did you know that the Space Force existed? I’m not sure how I missed that. The below images looks awfully similar to the Star Trek Insignia. On my personal facebook page I posted “I’ve been binge watching all the Star Trek I missed. Not sure how I missed that we have a Space Force. According to Star Trek we should be making First Contact with Vulcans 2064. We just have to get through this. First COVID19 swabs for me today carrying the OD walkie talkie. May we all Live Long and Prosper.” Not much of a response. I don’t think my real friends have much of a sense of humor. I actually do believe that we will be traveling to space soon, but we have to save this planet from plastic pollution first. I am so excited that some of you may get to make First Contact with alien species some day.