COVID-19 and the Impact on Children and Young Adults
Initial research suggests that fewer children than adults develop fever, cough, or shortness of breath from COVID-19. In addition, few children with COVID-19 needed hospitalization. However, severe illness has been reported in children, most often in infants younger than a year old.
COVID-19 in Children & Young Adults
- What symptoms do children and young adults with COVID-19 infection have?
Physicians are continuously evaluating the most common COVID-19 symptoms in children. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) keeps a list of the most up-to-date symptoms and can be found at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/symptoms-testing/symptoms.html. As of the date of these FAQs, per the CDC, the following are considered COVID-19 symptoms in children:
- Fever of at least 100 degrees F
- New onset or worsening congestion or runny nose not associated with allergy symptoms
- New onset Cough
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Muscle or body aches
- New loss of taste or smell
- Nausea or vomiting
- Sore throat
- How does COVID-19 impact children & young adults?
There are many things we are still learning about COVID-19, especially about its impact on children. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that based on current evidence, children are not at higher risk from COVID-19 than adults. According to a recent study in Pediatrics, data suggests that young children under 10 years of age are not as contagious as adults. However, they still can infect others with COVID-19. As children progress through the teen years, it appears they may become more likely to infect others. The healthcare community and researchers are still gathering information to better understand this.
- What is the current CDC guideline for when a child no longer requires home isolation?
Patients with COVID-19 may be contagious prior to developing symptoms and current CDC guidelines advise home isolation for at least 10 days after symptoms begin AND when they are without fever for at least 24 hours without fever reducing medications.
- What is MIS-C disease and how does it relate to children and COVID-19?
COVID-19 disease in children has been associated with a rare disease call Multi-System Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C). Children with this illness have fever and other signs of inflammation in their body that is found in blood tests. Symptoms of MIS-C illness include:
- Fever lasting more than 3 days
- Abdominal pain, diarrhea or vomiting
- Neck pain
- Rash or changes in skin color
- Bloodshot eyes
- Seems extra tired
- Trouble breathing
- Pain or pressure in the chest that doesn't go away
- Becoming confused
- Unable to wake up or stay awake
- Bluish lips or face
- My child is going to school in person. What can I do to reduce the risk of them getting COVID-19?
There are general principles recommended for schools in order to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission.
- Children should wear masks.
- Children should not go to school when they have COVID-19 symptoms or are not feeling well.
- Hand washing several times during the day, especially when changing locations in the school and before and after eating is extremely important.
- Physically distancing as much as possible within the school is recommended.
Remember, even when the child is not in school, it’s important for children to continue all of these practices when leaving the home.
How To Talk To Kids About COVID and Going Back To School
It’s important to talk to students with age-appropriate reinforcement of some basic themes:
- Reassure them that educators, parents, and students are together creating a safe environment for everyone.
- Be honest about what’s happening, that their school is taking these precautions while scientists all over the world are working toward effective treatments and vaccines.
- Give students space to talk about their feelings and, whenever possible, let them make choices. In uncertain times, even small choices will help them feel a sense of control or empowerment in their lives.
Parenting During COVID-19
The COVID-19 pandemic presents special challenges for parents. Browse our special collection of posts from the Healthy@UH blog with expert advice for parents and other child caregivers to help children thrive during this extraordinary time.
UH Health Talks
University Hospitals brings our health experts to you through our continuing series of virtual health talks. These virtual seminars, which touch on COVID-19 and children, include a presentation by physicians who are experts in their field, followed by a Q&A session.
The ABCDs of COVID-19
Always Wear a Mask
A mask covers the mouth and nose, where the droplets that spread COVID-19 are made. Children can have COVID-19 and spread the illness even when they don’t feel sick. If your child sees you wear a mask, they will pick up on that and wear one, too. This also will make it easier for your child, as they will be used to wearing a mask when they go back to school. When you talk to your children about wearing a mask, let them know that wearing a mask is a way to take care of others, because if we all wear a mask, we can slow the spread in the community.
Be Aware of Illness Symptoms
Before your child leaves the house, check for fever and any COVID-19 symptoms. 100.0°F or over without any medicines is the cutoff for fevers. Keep your child home if they are having a fever or COVID-19 symptoms. Talk with your child so they know that you want them to let teachers know if they are not feeling well at school. Have a plan for what to do if you need to pick a child up during the day.
Clean Your Hands and Your Space
Teach good handwashing at home by washing hands together or talking about it with older children. Soap and water for twenty seconds or two choruses of “Happy Birthday,” or a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol are recommended. Talk with your child about being safe and not sharing items with other children right now.
Distance Physically, But Not Socially
Stay 6 feet apart as much as possible. Physical closeness increases exposure. Children can keep up with friends by phone or email, with adult supervision. This can be a stressful time for children. You may have family or friends with COVID-19. You may have family or friends who have lost their jobs recently. Be honest and share information in a way they can understand. Tell your child that it’s okay to be sad, mad, or worried. It can be hard for grown-ups to hear about stress that children are feeling because we don’t have all the answers. But listening to your child and answering their questions can help.