Kids and COVID-19: Answers to Important Questions

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Provided by Novant Health UVA Health System

COVID-19 has affected nearly every aspect of daily life, including children’s routines. School, sports and social activities are at a standstill.

Anastasia Williams, M.D., FAAP, is a pediatrician and medical director of pediatrics at Novant Health UVA Olde Towne Pediatrics. She weighs in on how kids can lessen their chances of getting sick, how to communicate with youngsters about COVID-19 and other important topics.

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

 Symptoms can include fever, cough and shortness of breath. Symptoms of COVID-19 may appear in as few as two days or as long as 14 days after exposure. However, many young children show few or no symptoms.

How is coronavirus transmitted?

We understand that the virus spreads through close person-to-person contact. Much like the flu, when an infected person coughs or sneezes, respiratory droplets are produced with potential to infect those nearby. COVID-19 is also spread through contact with fecal matter.

Is COVID-19 affecting children differently than adults?

The majority of infants, children and adolescents with COVID-19, who traditionally are more susceptible to severe respiratory infections, have had more mild cases of the infection and recovered within one to two weeks. Many healthy children show few or no symptoms.

What is the risk of my child becoming sick with COVID-19?

Based on available evidence, children do not appear to be at higher risk for COVID-19 than adults. While some children and infants have been sick with COVID-19, adults make up most of the known cases to date.

What is the best way to protect my family from COVID-19?  

The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus. This includes everyday preventive actions, including washing your hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds. Be sure to wash hands  especially after going to the bathroom, before eating and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Avoid close contact with people who are sick. Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe. And please remember, many children have few or no symptoms but are still contagious. It is very important for them to have little or no contact with those who are at higher risk.

Should I buy masks for me and my family?

No. It is not recommended that people who are well wear a face mask to protect themselves from COVID-19. Face masks should be used by individuals who show symptoms of COVID-19 to help prevent the spread of the disease to others.

What should we tell our kids so that they understand the seriousness of it, but don’t panic themselves (especially young children)?

Answer questions and share facts about COVID-19 in a way that your child or teen can understand. Reassure your child or teen that they are safe. Let them know it is OK if they feel upset. Share with them how you deal with your own stress so that they can learn how to cope from you. Try to keep up with regular routines. If schools are closed, create a schedule for learning activities and relaxing or fun activities. Take breaks, get plenty of sleep, exercise and eat well.

If I suspect my child or I might have COVID-19, what is the protocol for seeking medical attention?

If you suspect you have coronavirus, or have symptoms that include fever or lower respiratory infection symptoms like cough or shortness of breath, call your Novant Health UVA Health System provider before arriving for an appointment. For severe symptoms or a medical emergency, call 911.

What is the treatment for COVID-19? 

There is currently no vaccine to prevent or treat COVID-19. People with COVID-19 should receive supportive care, like rest and drinking lots of fluids, to help relieve symptoms.

If we are ordered to self-quarantine, what exactly does that mean?

Quarantining means staying home and away from other people as much as possible for 14 days. If this happens and you don’t live alone, retreat to your room or find a separate area in the house. Don’t go out shopping, eating or socializing. High-risk individuals should have no contact with young children.

What if mom is pregnant – are the risks higher?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) doesn’t know if pregnant women have a greater chance of getting sick from COVID-19 than the general public, nor whether they are more likely to have serious illness as a result. Pregnant women experience changes in their bodies that may increase their risk of some infections. With viruses from the same family as COVID-19, and other viral respiratory infections, such as influenza, women have had a higher risk of developing severe illness. It is always important for pregnant women to protect themselves from illnesses.

Are infected people able to transmit the virus to their pets and vice versa?

No. There is no evidence at this time that pets such as cats and dogs have been infected or could spread the virus that causes COVID-19, according to the World Health Organization.

Where can I go for the latest information?

For updates on the 2019 novel coronavirus, visit this CDC website. For the most up-to-date information from Novant Health UVA Health System, visit


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