Are these symptoms a result of the pandemic?
Mood changes. Abdominal pain. Headaches. All symptoms of a variety of larger health issues. As pediatricians, we are seeing children and teenagers experiencing these very symptoms as a result of the pandemic.
Sometimes, kids are coming into our office with their parents for checkups and are telling me everything is fine. But then we start talking about the difficulties of our COVID environment, and we discover the toll this is taking on the child.
In other instances, we see patients for one or more or those specific symptoms -- maybe a headache that just won't go away or nagging abdominal pain.
We're seeing more and more patients whose real issue is the isolation the child is facing from not being at in-person school or participating in activities. The mind and body are deeply connected. It's not always easy to see, but when there's a major disruption in normal routine, like what we've seen as a result to COVID-19, the body's reaction can be manifested in so many ways.
Some kids and teens are generally not themselves during this time. They may be forgetting to eat, overeating, not exercising or not sleeping enough. Maybe they haven't reached out to their friends or are experiencing mood changes.
So what can parents do?
First and foremost, I recommend contacting your pediatrician's office.
Any time you notice a change in your child and aren't sure what to do about it, call. You may not even have words to explain what's going on. Maybe you feel like you're getting in arguments or your child is withdrawing. Your pediatrician's office is a huge resource for your child's wellness. We can help with sleep issues, nutrition guidance and so much more. Sometimes, children just need a trusted person outside of their home unit who they know and are comfortable with to help them.
Help your child to identify COVID-safe activities and tweaks in their current daily routine.
Kids often have levels of creativity within them that haven't been accessed. Maybe they love to draw or write. Help them come up with ways they can safely help others. This does a lot for creating a sense of connection with others.
Stay positive, and remember this will end.
• Children's health is a continuing series. Dr. Lori Walsh is a pediatrician affiliated with Advocate Aurora Health.