Sep 24, 2021, 12:34:16 PM CDT Mar 29, 2023, 9:14:42 AM CDT

COVID-19: When to take your child to the ER

Here's what to know if your child has COVID-19

The signs of COVID-19 in kids and when to go to the hospital. The signs of COVID-19 in kids and when to go to the hospital.

Due to the highly contagious Omicron variant, there has been a surge in positive COVID‑19 cases across the country. This increased spread of COVID‑19 has affected children as well as emergency rooms.

Many children with COVID‑19 will experience mild symptoms. But like adults, some children can develop serious, potentially life-threatening symptoms that require emergency care. Learn what to do if you think your child has COVID‑19 and when to go to the ER.

Signs and symptoms of COVID‑19 in children

Your child can show COVID‑19 symptoms anywhere between 2 and 14 days after being exposed to the virus. Symptoms can range from mild to severe, and some children may not show any symptoms.

Common symptoms of COVID‑19 in children can include:Mother holding son

  • Fever (at least 100°F)
  • Chills
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Cough
  • Diarrhea
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Shortness of breath or trouble breathing
  • Sore throat

When and where to get your child tested for COVID‑19

The surge of COVID‑19 cases in children, as well as a rise in other respiratory illnesses, has meant a spike in visits to the ER. If your child was exposed to COVID‑19 or shows mild symptoms, it's best to call your child's primary care provider for guidance.

If your child's primary care provider is unavailable and your child has non-life-threatening symptoms, you can take them to an urgent care location for medical care or testing. COVID‑19 testing is available in many non-hospital locations. See COVID‑19 community testing locations available in North Texas and how you can prepare your child for a COVID‑19 test.

See more advice about quarantining, testing and what to do if your child is exposed to COVID‑19.

Signs your child needs to go to the ER for COVID‑19

COVID‑19 symptoms in children are often mild. However, children can and do experience severe illness. Watch for warning signs that your child requires emergency care for COVID‑19, such as:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
  • New confusion
  • Inability to wake or stay awake
  • Pale, gray or blue-colored skin, lips or nail beds, depending on skin tone
  • Signs of dehydration (dry mouth, no tears, decreased urination) or inability to take liquids by mouth

Get emergency medical help immediately if your child shows any of these signs.

How to care for your child if they have COVID‑19

It can be scary to learn that your child has COVID‑19, but most children have mild illness and are able to recover at home. For mild symptoms, talk with your child's primary care provider and follow their instructions for care. People who are at high risk for severe COVID-19 and test positive can ask if they would benefit from monoclonal antibody therapy or antiviral treatment.

Use these tips to reduce the risk of spreading the virus and help with your child's recovery:

  • Keep your child at home and away from other family members, especially those who are unvaccinated or at high risk for severe COVID‑19 illness. If that's not possible and your child is over 2 years old, have them wear a mask.
  • Wash hands thoroughly and often and clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces in the house.
  • Make sure your child gets plenty of rest, liquids and nutritious food.
  • Use fever-reducing medications as needed, closely following dosing instructions.
  • Keep track of your child's symptoms, especially watching for breathing problems or any warning signs that your child needs emergency care.
  • Some families may monitor oxygen levels at home using a pulse oximeter. Ask your child's physician if that is recommended.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that anyone who tests positive for COVID‑19 isolate for at least 5 days. If your child's symptoms have resolved after 5 days, and your child has been fever-free for 24 hours (without medication), they may end isolation. They should continue to wear a well-fitted mask around others for an additional 5 days. Learn more about the CDC guidelines.

It's important to know that your child's pediatrician or school may have different recommendations or requirements for isolation and quarantining. Ask your child's pediatrician if you have any questions during your child's recovery.

Learn more about COVID‑19

Children's Health℠ is committed to remaining a trusted source of health information and care for you and your family during this time. See more resources to keep your family healthy at the Children's Health COVID‑19 hub.

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