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Is your child at higher risk? Here's a back-to-school guide to help parents

The guide by Children's Health/UTSW helps parents who have children with underlying health conditions determine low, moderate or high-risk when it comes to COVID-19.

DALLAS — As parents decide whether to send their children back to school in-person or online, Children's Health and UT Southwestern created a guide to help families.

It's a website with a comprehensive list of medical conditions and medications. Each one is separated into low, moderate or high-risk categories when it comes to COVID-19.

Some high-risk conditions include asthma, cystic fibrosis, neuromuscular conditions, sleep apnea and cancer.

"The whole purpose of this is providing information and knowledge, and assisting parents on making a very, very difficult decision," said Dr. Jeffrey Kahn. He is the chief of infectious diseases for Children's Medical Center and professor of pediatrics at UT Southwestern.

He said there are 17 sub-specialties represented on the COVID-19 Back-to-school guidance website. It harnesses the knowledge of doctors who take care of children with underlying medical problems.

Kahn said this list is unique because it is catered to parents. He hopes it gives guardians an idea of their child's condition in relation to COVID-19. From there, he said families should consult their child's healthcare provider.

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"I think the more information parents have, the better the decision we are able to make," said Fort Worth mother of three Melissa Johnson.

Before seeing this list, she already decided she wants her children to do virtual schooling for as long as possible, but she is grateful that the website is there for those who are still contemplating the tough choice. 

Johnson's three daughters all have asthma. 

"I'm not willing to risk my children's health," she said. "They're not going to learn anything if they are in the hospital."

She said her children have had a bad history with the flu and strep throat triggering their asthma, so she is not taking the risk with COVID-19. 

"A typical cold can send them over the edge," Johnson said.

Kahn said each family will have different situations. The back-to-school guide is intended to educate parents as the research with the novel coronavirus continues to change. As cases rise and fall, the level of risk for certain medical conditions could change. 

"It will be consistently updated as more medical knowledge becomes available," Kahn said.

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He also recommends families to get their children used to wearing masks, and pack multiple face coverings if returning to school. He said if anyone else in the household is sick, consider that when deciding in-person or virtual learning. 

The guide is free and available to the public and can be accessed here.

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