Coronavirus / COVID-19 (Pediatric)

Reviewed by Pamela L. Zeitlin, MD, MPhil, PhD
SARS-CoV-2 is a virus that causes the infectious disease COVID-19 in adults and children. It is a new coronavirus, which is a large group of common viruses that cause respiratory and gastrointestinal symptoms.

The coronavirus gets its name from what appears to be a crown or halo on the virus when it’s viewed under the electron microscope. “Corona” means crown in Latin. 

Most coronaviruses, such as the common cold, are not dangerous and mainly cause an infection in the nose, sinuses or upper throat. Coronaviruses also can cause pneumonia and bronchitis. People who have diabetes, heart and/or lung diseases, immune deficiency, or infants and older adults have a higher risk of being affected by a coronavirus.

COVID-19 and Children

In cases reported around the globe, COVID-19 looks different in children than it does in adults. Generally, most kids appear to be asymptomatic (not exhibiting symptoms) with mild to moderate disease. When children do have symptoms of COVID-19, they are less severe than symptoms that adults experience. Most kids recover within one to two weeks after symptoms appear.

Children are less likely to report symptoms, so parents will need to watch and ask how children are feeling.

The most common COVID-19 symptoms in kids are:

  • Fever

  • Cough

  • Shortness of breath

 

Less common symptoms for children include:

  • Fatigue

  • Nasal congestion

  • Diarrhea

  • Abdominal pain

  • Vomiting

  • Nausea

  • Chills or shaking chills

  • Muscle pain

  • Headache

  • New loss of taste or smell

 

Often teens believe they can’t get sick because they are young. This video explains that teens can get the coronavirus too.

Although mostly adults and older children have been diagnosed with COVID-19, babies and toddlers can still catch it. Too young to wear masks, parents of babies and toddlers need to take other measures to protect their young ones: Avoid public areas, parents need to wash hands thoroughly before touching and feeding them and toys and other surfaces within their reach need to be cleaned and sanitized regularly to help reduce the chance of catching the virus.

 

Diagnosing COVID-19 in Children

Most kids have no symptoms or only mild-to-moderate coronavirus symptoms. Call your child’s doctor if you notice any symptoms of COVID-19. The doctor can advise you about symptoms to watch, testing and home treatments. Younger children may need a referral for COVID-19 testing.

Your kid’s doctor will determine whether to test your child for COVID-19 based on signs and symptoms; exposure, recent travel and risk factors.

The swab (also called molecular) test can detect the presence of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. A long swab takes a sample from the back of the nose. A positive result indicates that viral genetic material was found.

Learn more about the Swab Test.

 

Treating Children with COVID-19

Currently there is no medication to cure COVID-19. A variety of experimental treatments are being investigated around the globe.  Learn more.

Most kids have mild symptoms of suspected or identified COVID-19 can recover with care at home. If your child has an increased risk of severe disease, your doctor will address the need for any additional care.

 

How to Prevent Kids from Getting COVID-19

Currently, there is no vaccine for the SARS-COV-2 virus or the COVID19 infectious disease. The best way to prevent getting infected is the same as other viruses – wash hands thoroughly with soap and water before touching your face and eating, avoid contact with people who appear sick and disinfect surfaces such as faucets, door knobs, etc. Get more prevention tips.

Information changes often related to the virus. Watch for updates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and your local public health department.

 

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