Reviewed by Nathan Rabinovitch, MD
Pediatric COVID-19: Symptoms
Symptoms of COVID-19 in 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 with mild to moderate disease. When children do have symptoms of coronavirus, 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 need to watch and ask how their kids are feeling.
The most common COVID-19 symptoms in children are:
Less common symptoms in kids include:
Chills or shaking chills
New loss of taste or smell
Pediatric Symptoms that Require Emergency Medical Attention:
Chest pressure or pain
Blue or white face, fingers, or toes
Inability to stay awake
Severe stomach pain
Risk Factors & Complications for Kids
Children with chronic asthma and other respiratory diseases, heart disease, immune-related diseases, cancer and obesity have an increased risk of getting COVID-19. These kids also are more vulnerable to serious complications including:
Breathing with a ventilator
Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C)
Doctors around the country are reporting that some kids who previously had COVID-19 are experiencing inflammation in the skin, eyes, blood vessels or heart. This new syndrome has been named Multisystem-Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C), formerly referred to as pediatric inflammatory multisystem syndrome, or PIMS. It is rare and does not seem to be affecting a large number of children. Learn more.
Treating Children with Long COVID
What is long COVID?
Mild or moderate COVID-19 lasts about 14 days. When COVID symptoms continue for four weeks or longer after developing acute COVID, a child could have long covid or post acute seqeala of covid (PASC). If the nasal swab test is negative for COVID but your child still has symptoms after 12 weeks then it's possible that your child has long covid.
Children can develop long covid even if they haven’t had symptoms or if they had mild or severe COVID-19.
What causes long covid?
We don’t yet know exactly what causes long covid. Doctors suspect that residue of the virus remains in the body and continues to keep the immune system active, which causes symptoms. Other theories about the cause of long covid are that the body’s organs are being damaged by the immune system because the virus causes the immune system to stay in an overexcited state, both of which causes symptoms.
What are the symptoms of long covid in kids?
Symptoms of long covid depend on how severe your child’s COVID-19 infection was, but common symptoms can include:
- Persistent shortness of breath, cough, chest discomfort
- Fatigue and reduced physical endurance
- Heart palpitations, chest pain, skipped beats
- Brain fog, difficulty thinking or concentrating
- Nausea, bloating, abdominal pain
- Joint or muscle pain, muscle weakness
- Pool sleep
- Loss of or changes in smell or taste
- Lightheadedness when standing up
How is long covid diagnosed?
If a nasal swab test for COVID-19 is negative but symptoms persist after 12 weeks, it is likely long covid. The National Jewish Health for Kids COVID-19 Assessment Program (CAP) can address the longer-lasting physical and emotional symptoms of the coronavirus outbreak in kids. These symptoms can include persistent shortness of breath, fatigue, anxiety, depression and deconditioning. The CAP program offers evaluation and treatment from a multispecialty team with the goal to help each child return to normal functions at home and school and in social interactions and recreational activities. Make an appointment here.
How are children treated for long covid?
Long covid treatment is determined by your child's clinical history, physical exam and diagnostic testing.
When to see the long covid experts at National Jewish Health?
If your child is having ongoing COVID symptoms, you may make an appointment here. You may call our pediatric triage care team 24/7 at 303.398.1239.
The information on our website is medically reviewed and accurate at the time of publication. Due to the changing nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, information may have since changed. CDC.gov and your state’s health department may offer additional guidance.