What to Do If Your Child Is Sick with COVID-19
August 11, 2020
It’s happened: Your child has symptoms of COVID-19. What should you do?
First of all, don’t panic. The vast majority of children who develop COVID-19 will experience only mild symptoms and severe disease is rare among children. So while it may feel stressful that coronavirus has touched your home, know that most children, even those with chronic diseases, have mild illness.
Taking Care of A Sick Child
Your first step should be to contact your health care provider to determine if your child should be seen virtually, in-person, and/or receive a COVID-19 test.
If you will be taking care of the sick child, make sure you understand and can help them follow their health care providers’ instructions for medication and care. You can treat mild symptoms such as fever and body aches with acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Motrin/Advil) following the appropriate guidelines for drug dosages. Make sure they get plenty of fluids and rest.
Monitor their symptoms. Be sure to follow up with your provider if your child has a fever for more than three consecutive days, is having trouble breathing or drinking, does not urinate at least three times over 24 hours, is getting worse, or you have any other concerns. Be sure to tell them your child has suspected or confirmed COVID-19. If your child has a medical emergency and you need to call 9-1-1, notify the dispatcher that your child has or may have COVID-19.
Protecting Your Family
You should wear a mask whenever caring for your sick child. As much as possible, your child should stay in a specific room and away from other people in your home. Your child should use a separate bathroom if possible. If they are old enough, they should wear a mask whenever they leave their room or are around other people.
Fresh air can help. Make sure that shared spaces in the home have good air flow and open the windows if the weather permits.
Remind your child to cover their mouth and nose when sneezing and coughing. Be sure to have them clean their hands frequently.
Wash your hand often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
Avoid sharing household items such as dishes, drinking glasses, towels or bedding with the sick child. Wash these items thoroughly after your sick child uses them.
Clean all high-touch surfaces, such as counters, tabletops, doorknobs, bathroom fixtures, toilets, keyboards and bedside tables every day. Use a household cleaning spray or wipe.
Preventing Spread of COVID-19
Patients with COVID-19 may be contagious prior to developing symptoms and current CDC guidelines advise home isolation for at least 5 days after symptoms begin. End isolation after 5 days if the child is fever-free for 24 hours (without the use of fever-reducing medication) and their symptoms are improving. Take precautions until day 10. Wear a well-fitting mask for 10 days any time you are around others inside your home or in public. Visit the CDC website for the latest guidelines..
Try to minimize visitors who do not have an essential need to be in your home.
Kathryn Tegeder, MD, is a general pediatrician with UH Westshore Primary Care
Learn more about Coronavirus in Children and Teens.