Should I be worried about my child getting COVID-19?

Mar 25, 2020

There is much to be learned about how COVID-19 impacts children. We do know current evidence from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention shows children do not appear to be at higher risk for COVID-19 than adults.

While children and infants around the globe that have gotten sick with COVID-19, adults make up most of the known cases to date.

An unknown is whether some children with underlying medical conditions and special healthcare needs are at higher risk for severe illness.

With all this uncertainty of a new virus, it’s understandable to be concerned about your child getting sick. Here are some frequently asked questions parents may have about their child and COVID-19:

Question: How do I talk to my child about COVID-19?

There’s a lot of coverage from many sources about the COVID-19 pandemic. It can have many adults feeling confused and anxious, let alone children.

When it’s time to talk to your child about COVID-19, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) offers these tips:

  • Reassure your children that researchers and doctors are learning as much as they can, as quickly as they can about the virus and are taking steps to keep everyone safe.
  • Encourage your child to take control of his or her health by washing their hands often, coughing into a tissue or their sleeve and getting enough sleep.
  • Watch for signs that your child is worried, even if he or she doesn’t say so. This can include moodiness, clinging to you more often, trouble sleeping or seeming distracted. Keep them reassured and try to stick to a normal routine.
  • Limit how much and often they hear or see news on COVID-19 by reducing time spent watching TV or on the Internet. Turn to reliable sources for news on COVID-19.
  • Be a good role model. There’s a lot of stigma and discrimination surrounding this virus, even though everyone is susceptible to it. Show empathy to those effected by COVID-19 and encourage your child to do the same.

You can trust St. Joseph’s/Candler as a reliable source of information. We consult daily with not only our expert team of doctors and nurses, but also officials from the Georgia Department of Public Health. Information we publish comes from expert physicians, nurses and sources like the CDC and AAP.

Question: Are the symptoms of COVID-19 different in children than adults?

No, says the CDC. The symptoms of COVID-19 are similar in children and adults. Children with confirmed COVID-19 have generally presented with mild symptoms such as fever, runny nose and cough. Vomiting and diarrhea also have been reported.

Question: How can I protect my child from COVID-19?

Encourage your child to practice healthy habits that would reduce the risk of any infection or virus including:

  • Washing hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer
  • Avoid people who are sick
  • Cough and sneeze into a tissue or into their arm or elbow, not their hands
  • Avoid touching their face
  • Clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces daily including tables, doorknobs, toys, toilets, etc.
  • Wash clothing and washable plush toys as appropriate in the warmest appropriate setting and dry items completely. Dirty laundry from a sick person can be washed with other people’s items, states the CDC.

Related Article: St. Joseph’s/Candler Director of Pediatric Emergency Medicine offers tips to try to avoid common schoolhouse ailments

Question: What can I do with my child with school being closed?

Both Georgia and South Carolina schools have been ordered to close for the remainder of March. Many daycare centers are making similar decisions. Many parents are wondering what to do for the prolonged – and unexpected – break.

Working parents should consider a plan for alternative childcare, such as talking to your employer about working from home, or asking a healthy, low-risk adult relative to babysit.

If you and your child are home because of COVID-19, the AAP recommends keeping their days as routine and scheduled as possible. Some helpful tips include:

  • Read books with your child. It’s not only fun, but reading together strengthens your bond with your child and helps their development.
  • Make time for active play. Grab some balls, jump ropes and buckets and get creative with physical activity. Play games that kids of all ages can play like tag or duck duck goose. Have your child invent a new game.
  • Limit time spent on electronics. When possible, keep your child’s time spent playing video games or going online structured and limited. Try video chats to stay in touch with family and friends.

Related Article: Reading to children at a young age builds literacy, language skills

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