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COVID-19 Reader Questions ~ Ask An SMH Expert

COVID-19 Reader Questions ~ Ask An SMH Expert

As the COVID-19 pandemic — and what we know about it — continues to evolve, it’s important to seek out trustworthy, reliable sources for information and answers to coronavirus / COVID-19 questions. 

In this “Ask An Expert” Q&A, we do just that: We ask Sarasota Memorial medical experts to answer some of the coronavirus-related questions that you, our Healthe-Matters blog readers, have been asking. 

{If you have a question you’d like a local health expert to weigh in on, shoot us an email at}

Never Mask a Baby

I’m worried about my baby being exposed to coronavirus. Since the CDC advises everyone to wear facemasks in public now, should I get one for my baby? ~ Amy J.

No. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) does NOT recommend face masks or other face coverings for infants or children younger than age 2 (or “anyone who has trouble breathing, or is unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance”) due to concerns that they might suffocate.

Instead, practice social distancing and limit potential exposure by keeping children at home. Use a grocery delivery service or enlist the help of a friend / family member to pick up must-have items, so you do not have to take your child out into public places.

Dr. Jessie HoangWe have seen some online retailers selling infant masks and baby-size masks with pacifiers attached. We highly discourage using these products or anything similar.
“Covering an infant or toddler's mouth or nose with fabric — even loose fabric — can be very dangerous,” explained Sarasota Memorial Pediatrics Chair Jessie Hoang, MD. “It can make breathing difficult for the child and can result in asphyxiation (the inability to get enough air)." 

"It’s not worth the risk," she added. "Do your best to keep babies away from situations where there is potential exposure to COVID-19 and practice social distancing."

Steroid Nose Spray & Infection 

Is it safe to continue using a steroid nose spray for allergies, or will it lower the body’s immunity to infection? ~ Susan A.

It is true that steroids suppress the immune system. Typically, patients who take more than 20 milligrams of prednisone daily (or equivalent) for at least 2 weeks are considered to be “immunocompromised.” 

However, the dose of standard nasal steroids is typically significantly lower (in the microgram range) than the dose required to be considered immunocompromised, explains Sarasota Memorial Emergency Care/Toxicology Clinical Pharmacist Jeremy Lund, PharmD, BCCCP, BCPS. 

Jeremy Lund“Although we do not have any data,” Lund said, “I do not suspect that using intranasal steroids places a patient at greater risk of COVID-19.”

He added, “I would caution against discontinuing steroid nose spray use during allergy season. Some of the symptoms of seasonal allergies overlap with symptoms of COVID-19. If your primary care physician prescribed you an intranasal steroid (nose spray), be sure to discuss temporarily stopping use with that provider before you discontinue use.”

Do Not Delay Care

If someone gets sick or hurt, is it still safe to go to the doctor? ~ Blair S.

Yes! If you need medical attention, do not delay getting care! 

Our hospital ERs, Urgent Care Centers, physician offices and other outpatient care centers are all following strict infection prevention measures so that they can safely continue to care for patients. 

Teams at these locations have also implemented new screening and arrival processes to further ensure patient and staff safety. At some locations, patients are asked to wait in their cars until they can be seen by a doctor, and many have dedicated well-visit / sick-visit appointment time slots so staff can thoroughly disinfect between appointments. 

For non-emergency illness or injury, in-person office visits can still be scheduled at First Physicians Group (FPG) practices. And in some cases, FPG doctors can use telemedicine to evaluate patients; however, your physician may need to see you in person for appropriate care. 

Dr. Katherine Keeley“We’re able to use telemedicine to care for our patient families in many cases. They still see their pediatrician face to face, but from the comfort of their own home,” explained Pediatrician Katherine Keeley, MD, of FPG Pediatrics at Lakewood Ranch. “But some ailments really do require an in-person evaluation for diagnosis or treatment.”

Call your doctor’s office or nearby Urgent Care Center to talk about the best way for you to seek care.

(Note that the hours of operations at some Urgent Care Centers and other outpatient facilities have temporarily changed; call ahead to confirm a location is open or use the Save My Spot online check-in tool for urgent care visits.)

Coronavirus Testing

I’m worried that I might have coronavirus. How can I get tested? ~ Paul C.

In order to get tested, you'll need a physician-written prescription. Clinical decision-making about who gets tested is based on continually changing guidance from the CDC, as well as the criteria and capacity of local specimen collection sites. 

Talk with your primary care doctor about whether you should get tested, as well as when, where and how. If you don't have a doctor, call the Sarasota County COVID-19 Call Center (941-861-2883). 

Have a question for an SMH expert? Email it to

** NOTE: Information above was last updated April 10, 2020. For the latest updates, we recommend visiting our dedicated webpage,, or the CDC website

Posted: Apr 10, 2020,
Comments: 0,
Author: Ann Key