Children and COVID-19
Based on available evidence, children do not appear to be at higher risk for COVID-19 than adults. While some children and infants have been sick with COVID-19, adults make up most of the known cases to date. But, as new policies, procedures and best practices are put in place (and sometimes change from week to week) and more data about the virus is uncovered, parents may be wondering how to keep their children safe from COVID-19 — and on how it may affect children differently than it does adults.
How Does COVID-19 Affect Children?
The symptoms of COVID-19 are similar in children and adults. However, children with confirmed COVID-19 have generally shown milder symptoms than those in adults and the elderly. Reported symptoms in children include cold-like symptoms such as fever, runny nose and cough. Vomiting and diarrhea have also been reported.
Children with Medical Conditions
Asthma: Children with asthma may have more severe symptoms from COVID-19 or any other respiratory disease, including the flu. As yet, there are no indications that most children with asthma experience severe symptoms due to the coronavirus, but observe them carefully and, if symptoms develop, call the child’s doctor to discuss next steps and to arrange appropriate evaluation as needed.
Diabetes: Control of blood sugar is key. Children with well-managed diabetes are not expected to be more susceptible to COVID-19. But poorly controlled diabetes can weaken the immune system, so parents and doctors should watch these children carefully for signs and symptoms that may require evaluation.
How Can I Keep My Child Safe from COVID-19?
Practice Social Distancing
The key to slowing the spread of COVID-19 is to limit contact as much as possible. While school is out, children should not have in-person playdates with children from other households. If children are playing outside their own homes, it is essential that they remain 6 feet from anyone who is not in their own household.
To help children maintain social connections while social distancing, help your children have supervised phone calls or video chats with their friends.
Clean Hands Often
Make sure children practice everyday preventive behaviors, such as washing their hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. This is especially important if you have been in a public place.
Change Holiday and Travel Plans
While it’s customary to travel for Easter, spring break and during the early summer months, plans should be revised if they’re non-essential, as it may introduce higher chances of your children infecting or being infected by COVID-19.
Children with COVID-19 may only have mild symptoms, but they can still pass this virus onto others who may be at higher risk, including older adults and people who have serious underlying medical conditions.
Limit Time with Older Adults / People with Serious Underlying Medical Conditions
Older adults and people who have serious underlying medical conditions are at high risk of severe illness from COVID-19.
If others in your home are at particularly high risk for severe illness from COVID-19, consider extra precautions to separate your child from those people.
If you are unable to stay home with your child while school is out, carefully consider who might be best positioned to provide child care. If someone at higher risk for COVID-19 will be providing care (older adults, such as a grandparent or someone with a chronic medical condition), limit your children’s contact with other people.
Consider postponing visits or trips to see older family members and grandparents. Connect virtually or by writing letters and sending via mail.
Should My Child Wear a Mask?
Children two years and older should wear a mask covering their nose and mouth when in the community setting. This is an additional public health measure people should take to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in addition to (not instead of) social distancing, frequent hand cleaning and other everyday preventive actions. Children under the age of two should not utilize a mask of any kind, as it can inhibit breathing and potentially cause complications.
Tips for Keeping Children Healthy
Watch for Any Signs of Illness
If you see any sign of illness consistent with symptoms of COVID-19, particularly fever, cough or shortness of breath, call your healthcare provider and/or set up a telemedicine appointment while keeping your child at home and away from others as much as possible.
Watch for Signs of Stress
Some common changes to watch for include excessive worry or sadness, unhealthy eating or sleeping habits, and difficulty with attention and concentration.
Teach and Reinforce Everyday Preventive Actions
Parents and caretakers play an important role in teaching children to wash their hands. Explain that hand washing can keep them healthy and stop the virus from spreading to others.
Be a good role model — if you wash your hands often, they’re more likely to do the same.
Help Them Stay Active
Encourage your child to play outdoors — it’s great for physical and mental health. Take a walk with your child or go on a bike ride.
Use indoor activity breaks (like stretch breaks or dance breaks) throughout the day to help your child stay healthy and focused.
Help Them Stay Socially Connected
Reach out to friends and family via phone or video chats.
Write cards or letters to family members they may not be able to visit
Taking care of children during this time may be difficult, but by setting up a solid routine and setting a positive, healthy example, your child will better understand how to help and do their part to reduce the chances of infection for their friends, family and neighbors. Together, we can ensure they stay clean and healthy throughout this pandemic.