As coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has emerged – and with it, many questions and fears – one comfort for many parents has been that so far, children do not appear to be at higher risk for COVID-19 than adults. There has been more focus on people ages 65 and older, as early data suggests that they are at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19.
However, it's important to know that COVID-19 is a new disease, and new information is being learned about it every day. COVID-19 can still affect children, and parents should take precautions to keep kids healthy, both physically and mentally.
Learn five ways children can be affected by COVID-19 and how to support them during this time.
1. Children can get COVID-19.
Children and infants can get sick with COVID-19, but most known cases to date have been in adults. So far, children with COVID-19 have often presented with mild cold-like symptoms, such as fever, runny nose and cough. Some children have also reported gastrointestinal symptoms, such as vomiting and diarrhea. However, there is still much unknown about COVID-19 in children, including if some children, such as children with underlying medical conditions, may be at higher risk for severe illness. Additionally, even if a child has only mild symptoms, they can still spread the virus to others.
Parents can help protect their children from COVID-19 by teaching them precautions such as:
- Avoiding close contact with people who are sick
- Cleaning their hands often
- Cleaning and disinfecting commonly touched surfaces in the home
- Practicing social distancing
- Wearing a cloth face covering if over the age of 2 years old
Parents should turn to trusted sources, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), for the latest information on COVID-19 and children. As reports of new symptoms and trends appear, such as recent warnings about an inflammatory syndrome similar to Kawasaki disease that may be associated with COVID-19, it's important to look for data-informed recommendations on how to care for your child. If you are concerned about COVID-19 symptoms in your child, call your health care provider.
2. Children can be put at risk if they miss routine medical care and treatments.
Beyond infection, there are many other ways COVID-19 can affect the health of children. One concern is if children do not receive appropriate care for existing medical conditions or preventative care to ensure their well-being. Contact your child's pediatrician or specialist to discuss the best plan to care for your child's health during this time, and to ensure your child is up-to-date on all care including routine vaccinations. The CDC has emphasized the importance of maintaining childhood immunizations during the COVID-19 pandemic, especially for infants and young children (through 24 months of age).
It's important to know that health care providers are taking steps to ensure the safety of their patients and their families. Ask your provider what precautions they are taking, and make sure you are aware of any visitor restrictions or necessary screenings ahead of time. Some providers may also offer virtual visits for certain conditions and appointments, allowing you convenient access to continued care.
3. Children may feel stress and anxiety about COVID-19.
In addition to the physical health of your child, it's important to care for your child's mental health. It can be normal for children to feel stressed or anxious about COVID-19, especially as day-to-day schedules have been disrupted. Watch for signs of anxiety in your child, such as excessive worry, restlessness, fatigue, difficulty concentrating or trouble sleeping. Also know that stress and anxiety can look different for every child, especially depending on their age.
During this time of unprecedented change, make an effort to encourage healthy habits such as a regular sleep schedule, proper nutrition and regular physical activity. Work with your child to create a new daily schedule and routine. Help your child focus on what they can control, teach coping skills such as breathing exercises and encourage positive thinking. See more tips to help your child with anxiety about COVID-19.
4. Children may feel socially isolated when social distancing.
Social distancing is an important way to stop the spread of COVID-19, but children may find it difficult to adapt to not seeing classmates, friends or family members. Make an effort to help your child know that social distancing does not mean social isolation. Encourage your child to connect with friends and loved ones in other ways, such as through video chats, virtual playdates or sending a card or email to check in.
If your child is missing an important milestone, such as a birthday or graduation celebration, look for creative ways to involve friends and family in a celebration. Ask your child how they are feeling and let them know it's okay to be disappointed or sad.
Simply being there for your child and listening to them can go a long way in supporting them through this time. See more tips to support your child while social distancing.
5. Children may not have access to typical school services or community resources.
Another way children are being affected by COVID-19 is the effects the virus is having on schools and other community resources. Many schools transitioned to at-home learning, which can be a difficult adjustment for any student. Looking toward the future, schools and camps are looking for the best ways to ensure children's safety, and some plans may still be in flux.
To encourage your child's at-home learning, look for ways to support your child academically, physically and emotionally. Help create a daily schedule, set up a "school" space at home and consider a reward system if your child needs motivation to complete work. Make sure you contact your school with any questions you have, or to ask for help finding additional resources such as special learning plans or school meal services. See more tips to help with at-home learning.
Lastly, we recognize that these transitions can be difficult for parents as well. One of the best ways to take care of your child is by making it a priority to take care of yourself, too. While this is an uncertain time, you are not alone. Children's Health℠ is committed to remaining a trusted source of health information and care for you and your family during this time.
At Children's Health, the safety of our patients, patient families and team members remains our top priority. We have implemented numerous changes and protocols to maintain the safest care environment possible. Learn more about these safety measures and see other resources to keep your family healthy at the Children's Health COVID-19 hub.
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