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Last updated September 10, 2021. 3 minute read

Guidelines for how to talk about the coronavirus

How we talk about COVID-19 matters. Communicating the right way can get people to adopt and apply safety practices that help slow to spread of the virus as well as quell fear. But the way we talk about the virus and COVID-19 needs to be tailored for the situation. Here’s how to talk with your kids about COVID.

Linnea Zielinski Written by Linnea Zielinski
Reviewed by Rachel Kwon, MD

How to talk about the novel coronavirus with your kids

There’s a lot of information to stay on top of when it comes to coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). It’s helpful to assess what your kids have already heard about the virus. A great place to start may be asking what they know and how they’re feeling. What they’ve heard, the accuracy of the information, and how that has influenced their feelings and fears will shape the conversation that happens.

It’s important that you don’t dismiss their fears, even if they’re based on incorrect information. Recognize and address your child’s fear, then provide the real information if they’re ready for it. If they’re not ready to hear all the details, you can always come back to discussing the novel coronavirus when they’re feeling more secure and less scared.

Proper hand hygiene is recommended as one of the first lines of defense against the virus. Talk with your kids about why handwashing is important, when they should do it, and how to do it properly. Giving them instructions they can relate to, such as telling them to wash their hands while singing “Happy Birthday” twice (instead of saying 20 seconds), can also help them understand and apply the information (CDC, 2021a).

How to talk about the novel coronavirus with coworkers, bosses, or employees

As more and more people get vaccinated, companies are working on new guidelines for handling COVID-19. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has suggested guidelines for businesses and employers so that they can implement strategies quickly and effectively. This requires open communication from all areas of the business (CDC, 2021b).

If you’re an employee, be honest with your employer and co-workers about any possible exposures to COVID-19. You should also inform your supervisor if you start to feel sick. If you wake up feeling ill, tell your supervisor and ask about work-from-home policies. Additionally, ask about sick leave or work from home policies if someone else in your family is ill.

If you’re an employer or manager, encourage people to work from home if they feel any symptoms of respiratory illness and to practice proper hand hygiene and coughing and sneezing etiquette. This means ensuring that sick leave policies or work-from-home policies are flexible during this time. Any employee who has had a recent COVID-19 exposure, who shows up sick, or who starts to feel sick during the weekday should be encouraged to go home (CDC, 2021c).

If you find out that you have been in contact with a person who tested positive for coronavirus, it is important to prevent spread of the virus to others. The CDC recommends that you self-quarantine by staying home for 10 days after your last contact with a person who has COVID-19. Speak to a healthcare provider to see whether you should be tested for COVID-19.

It’s also important to monitor yourself for symptoms of COVID-19 such as fever, cough, and shortness of breath. If possible, stay away from other people to ensure that you do not spread the virus to others, especially people who fall into high-risk categories who might become very ill if they contract COVID-19. These categories include people over the age of 65, people with preexisting breathing conditions like asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and people with underlying immune conditions (CDC, 2020).

If you test positive for coronavirus, it’s important to self-isolate. This means staying away from people, even in your own home if possible, in order to ensure that they do not become infected as well. Once you have been diagnosed with COVID-19, or if you suspect you have the virus, the CDC recommends remaining in isolation until 10 days have passed since your symptoms first appeared and you have been fever-free for 24 hours (without the use of fever-lowering medications). Also, your other symptoms should be improving. It’s important to note that some symptoms (like loss of smell and taste sensation that some patients report) can persist for months after you are no longer infectious (CDC, 2021c).

Since vaccines have become widely available and more and more people are getting vaccinated, restrictions are lifting in many regions. Getting vaccinated is an effective way to prevent transmission of COVID-19 and protect yourself and those around you from serious disease. Look for local resources to find out how you can get your vaccine.

References

  1. CDC: When and How to Wash Your Hands. (2021a, June 10). Retrieved September 10, 2021 from https://www.cdc.gov/handwashing/when-how-handwashing.html

    CDC: Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers to Plan and Respond to Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). (2021b, March 8). Retrieved September 10, 2021 from https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/guidance-business-response.html


  2. CDC: COVID-19 Quarantine and Isolation. (2021c, July 29). Retrieved September 10, 2021, from https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/if-you-are-sick/end-home-isolation.html

    CDC: Science Brief: Options to Reduce Quarantine for Contacts of Persons with SARS-CoV-2 Infection Using Symptom Monitoring and Diagnostic Testing. (2020, December. Retrieved September 10, 2021, from https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/science/science-briefs/scientific-brief-options-to-reduce-quarantine.html?CDC_AA_refVal=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.cdc.gov%2Fcoronavirus%2F2019-ncov%2Fmore%2Fscientific-brief-options-to-reduce-quarantine.html