FAQ: Caring for Kids With COVID-19 With Andres Ramgoolam, MD
Children with COVID-19 can have wide range of symptoms – ranging from mild symptoms (most kids) to severe illness (in rare cases). Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus. In general, kids with COVID have much milder symptoms than adults, but kids can still spread the virus.
What kind of symptoms do kids get with COVID?
Fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, new loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea or vomiting, and diarrhea.
How should I care for my child when they have COVID?
Fluids and rest are helpful. It’s OK to use Tylenol or Ibuprofen for fever or discomfort from COVID as long as your child does not have other reasons they should not take these medicines. Monitor your child’s symptoms. If they have any emergency warning signs*, get emergency medical care immediately.
When to Seek Emergency Medical Attention
*Emergency warning signs:
If someone is showing any of these signs, seek emergency medical care immediately:
- Severe breathing problems (e.g., grunting sounds with breathing, chest sucking in with breathing)
- Inability to drink or breastfeed
- Sleepy and not able to wake up, confused, or seizures
- Severe trouble breathing as defined by age:
- < 1 month: 60 or more breaths per minute or 20 or fewer breaths per minute,
- 1 to 12 months: 50 or more breaths per minute or 10 or fewer breaths per minute,
- 1 year or older: 40 or more breaths per minute
- Persistent pain or pressure in the chest.
- Pale, gray, or blue-colored skin, lips, or nail beds, depending on skin tone
Does my child need to separate from other people?
You quarantine when you have been exposed to the virus.
You isolate when you test positive for the virus, even if you don’t have symptoms.
If your child has not had the COVID vaccination shot and was exposed to a known positive case, they should quarantine – stay away from other people – for 14 days after the last contact. One way to shorten this period is to get your child tested 5 days after the exposure. If the test is negative, they can stop quarantining on the 7th day after exposure. Watch for fever (>100.4 F) or other symptoms listed above.
If your child has had the COVID vaccination shot and was exposed to a known positive case, they do not need to quarantine, but should still maintain the 3 Ws (Wear a mask, Wait 6 feet apart in public, and Wash hands).
If your child tested positive, they should isolate. They should stay home until at least 10 days since symptoms first appeared AND 24 hours with no fever without fever-reducing medication AND other symptoms of COVID-19 are improving. Most people do not need to re-test to prove they are negative (the test can stay positive for months).
For both quarantine and isolation, try to stay away from people you live with, especially those at higher risk for disease severity (this can be challenging with younger children). People at higher risk include children with medically complex conditions (e.g., neurologic, metabolic, genetic, cardiac, or respiratory diseases).
How do I keep other family members safe?
- Stay in a separate room from other household members, if possible.
- Use a separate bathroom, if possible.
- Avoid contact with other members of the household.
- Don’t share personal items, like cups, towels, and utensils.
- Wear a mask when around other people if able.
When can I get my child vaccinated if they currently have COVID?
Once they are done with their isolation period, children 12-17 should get their COVID vaccine (if they had not been vaccinated before). Here’s how to get one:
Or call 336-890-1140
When can my child go back to school?
They can go back once they are done with isolation (if they tested positive) or quarantine (if they were exposed).
About the Author
Andres Ramgoolam, MD, is a pediatrician with Piedmont Pediatrics in Greensboro.