Children’s COVID-19 Help Line
COVID-19 has made its way across the country and around the world. And with each passing day, it’s not just the statistics about how many people have gotten it that is changing — knowledge about the virus is evolving, too.
Even though we’re learning more every day, we still don’t have all of the answers. But in the meantime, here are some of the basics about COVID-19.
Coronavirus, Novel Coronavirus, and COVID-19: A Vocabulary LessonThe terms “coronavirus,” “novel coronavirus,” and “COVID-19” get thrown around frequently. But what exactly do they mean?
- Coronavirus: Coronaviruses are a type of infectious virus. There are actually several different coronaviruses.
- Novel Coronavirus: This current coronavirus is called “novel” because it is new.
- COVID-19: This is the disease caused by the virus.
Symptoms of COVID-19The symptoms of COVID-19 are similar in both children and adults, though children tend to have a milder illness. However, symptoms can range from mild to severe for anyone, and they’re thought to appear anywhere from 2 to 14 days after a person is exposed to the virus.
The primary symptoms of COVID-19 include:
- Fever of ≥100.0
- Sore throat
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Loss of smell
If your child has these or other concerning symptoms or you are concerned about potential exposure, please call their primary care provider or Children’s COVID-19 Help Line at 402-955-3200. Monitor symptoms and get emergency care immediately if you or a family member experiences the following:
- Difficulty breathing
- Persistent pain or chest pressure
- Inability to wake up
- Bluish lips or face
COVID-19 in Children vs. Adults: What’s the Difference?Ever since COVID-19 began in Wuhan, China, there have been reports that children tend to fare better with the virus.
The good news is that there is some truth to this. Early research suggests that children have less-severe symptoms and are less likely to need hospitalization.
The reason isn’t entirely known, but it could be due to children’s immune systems. Other types of coronaviruses spread in the community, causing conditions like common colds. And since kids tend to constantly have colds, they may have antibodies (proteins in the blood that ward off certain viruses) that protect them from coronavirus. Also, adults’ immune systems sometimes kick into overdrive and end up causing more damage to their bodies — but children’s immune systems are less likely to do this.
It’s also possible that the virus is milder in children because severe cases often occur in people with chronic conditions like heart disease or high blood pressure — and these conditions are much more common in adults.
But That’s Not the Entire Story
However, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t take COVID-19 seriously when it comes to your child. Children can still get moderate or severe symptoms, need to be hospitalized, or even have a life-threatening case. They may also become “long haulers” (where they experience certain symptoms, like fatigue, long after recovering) or develop multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C). MIS-C is a rare, but serious, condition where a child’s body parts — including the heart, lungs, brain, skin, kidneys, eyes and digestive organs — become inflamed.
It’s not entirely clear why this happens, but there are several risk factors:
- Very young age: Babies less than one year old have smaller airways (which makes breathing more difficult when they have a respiratory infection), and their immune systems are still developing.
- Certain underlying medical conditions, including:
- Moderate to severe asthma
- Serious heart conditions, such as heart failure
- Chronic lung disease
- Being immunocompromised: Children with weakened immune systems — such as those who are going through cancer treatment, have had an organ transplant, or have a disease like HIV that affects the immune system — may not be able to fight off the virus as well.
COVID-19 in TeenagersOlder children may have the same likelihood of getting seriously ill from COVID-19 as younger ones, but there are a few lifestyle factors that can increase their risk.
Vaping — a form of tobacco-less smoking — is a significant problem in the younger population. Many teens mistakenly believe that it’s not as dangerous as smoking cigarettes. However, vaping can be just as damaging to the lungs — and people with damaged lungs have an increased susceptibility to respiratory illness.
Also, some older teens don’t believe that they are at high-risk for getting COVID-19, so they may be a little more lax about preventive measures like social distancing and handwashing. If you have a teenager who is returning from college, they might be longing for that newfound independence. And while it’s important to respect their need for independence, it’s also critical to keep a watchful eye and make sure they aren’t developing a rebellious streak that may put their health at risk.
Getting Tested for COVID-19There are laboratory tests that can confirm if a person has coronavirus. If you believe that your child may have COVID-19, you can call our hotline at 402-955-3200 for information on testing.
Treatment for COVID-19There are not many treatments currently available, but don’t panic — most people who get COVID-19 only have mild symptoms and recover from home. In general, the steps to take after a diagnosis are the same for both children and adults.
If symptoms are not severe, stay at home and be sure to rest and get plenty of fluids. Your provider may also recommend taking over-the-counter medications to control symptoms like fever. Check with your provider before taking any medication (or giving any to your child).
Even if you live with others, try to isolate yourself. Even though COVID-19 is very contagious, it’s possible that others in your household have not gotten it. This can be a little difficult when you have children, especially if your child is the one that is sick.
Isolation is hard for anyone, but it can be particularly difficult for a child. And, it’s a natural instinct as a parent to try to care for your child when they’re sick. In order to keep yourself and others in your house safe, always wear a face covering around your child and wash your hands thoroughly after having contact with them — even if it’s just bringing them a tray of food.
But What if COVID-19 is Severe?
If you or your child are having severe symptoms like difficulty breathing, chest pressure, or confusion, get emergency medical care immediately. A care team will monitor symptoms and decide if more advanced treatments like ventilators are needed.
Recovering from COVID-19Monitor their symptoms and keep in touch with your provider, who can provide guidance regarding care and when to end isolation. General recommendations regarding when to end isolation include:
- No fever for at least 72 hours without medications to reduce fever, AND
- Symptoms have improved, AND
- It has been at least 7 days since symptoms first appeared
How COVID-19 is TransmittedCOVID-19 is spread mainly through person-to-person contact. You can become infected if a person with COVID-19 coughs, sneezes, or talks near you. Respiratory droplets from these actions can land in your mouth or nose, or be inhaled into lungs — and you can’t see or feel them. These droplets can be passed on even if a person is asymptomatic.
There is a slight possibility of surface transmission (where the droplets land on objects or surfaces, you touch the contaminated surface, and then touch your own mouth, nose, or eyes). However, this has been shown to be fairly rare.
Can My Child Get a Vaccine?As of June 2, 2021, COVID-19 vaccines from the manufacturers Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson have been authorized for emergency use. While the vaccines from Moderna and Johnson & Johnson are only available to adults ages 18 and older, the Pfizer one is available for anyone ages 12 and older. And after promising results from a clinical trial, it appears that Moderna will soon apply to extend the emergency authorization of their vaccine to include anyone ages 12 to 17.
There are currently clinical trials to test the safety and efficacy (how well it works) in younger children, but there are no vaccines available for children under age 12 at this time.
Children’s is currently offering the Pfizer vaccine to Children’s Hospital & Medical Center or Children’s Physicians patients ages 12 and up. To schedule a vaccination appointment, call your Children’s Physicians pediatrician’s office or 402-955-SHOT from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. for an appointment.
Visit our FAQ page or read “Why Vaccinate Your Teen? A Children’s Physicians Pediatrician Breaks Down The Vaccine Data” to learn more about the vaccine — including why it is safe and why it’s critical to have your teenager vaccinated.
Keeping Your Family Safe
The most effective way to prevent contracting COVID-19 is to avoid exposure in the first place. Everyone in your family should practice the following healthy habits:
Wash Your Hands Often
Get into the habit of washing your hands frequently for at least 20 seconds — especially after being in public, blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing. You should also make sure to wash your hands before any food preparation and before and after wearing gloves. If soap and water are not available, use a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
Follow Masking and Social Distancing Guidelines
Since COVID-19 is most often spread from person to person, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued social distancing and masking guidelines. These include staying at least 6 feet away from others, avoiding crowds or mass gatherings (especially indoors), and wearing a mask around others.
However, there are updated guidelines for people who have been vaccinated.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), fully vaccinated individuals (meaning it has been two weeks since their second dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna vaccine, or two weeks since their single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine) can resume their daily activities without wearing masks or social distancing. They also do not need to get tested if they’ve been exposed to COVID-19 but are asymptomatic.
There are a few exceptions and things to keep in mind:
- Continue following any mask or social distancing policies that individual businesses have in place.
- Your child should still get tested if they have symptoms of COVID-19. They should not visit any public or private settings if they have tested positive within the past 10 days or are symptomatic.
- The risk of a vaccinated person becoming infected, experiencing no symptoms, and then passing it onto someone else is low — but it still exists. According to the CDC, if you are fully vaccinated, you can stop wearing masks or social distancing with:
- Others who are fully vaccinated
- Unvaccinated people from only one other household, unless they or anyone they live with have an increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19 (e.g., they are immunocompromised).
If your child has a weakened immune system — such as from cancer or an organ transplant — they should continue wearing a mask, even if they are vaccinated. If you are unsure if your child has a weakened immune system, contact their pediatrician for guidance.
States, counties, towns, or individual businesses may have their own policies for masking and social distancing, so make sure you still keep your mask with you.
Children’s is currently requiring everyone (patients, family members, staff) — regardless of their vaccination status — to wear a face mask while in any of our facilities.
In continued efforts to keep everyone safe, the follow types of masks are no longer allowed while visting Children’s facilities:
- Face shield without mask
- Vented mask
If you need an approved mask, please ask for one at reception.
Cover Your Mouth When Sneezing or Coughing
If you cough or sneeze, use a tissue or the inside of your elbow. Then, immediately wash your hands.
Remember how hard it was to find disinfectant for a few months? That’s because at the beginning of the pandemic, it was thought that COVID-19 could easily be passed through surface transmission. So, people flocked to the stores to stock up on cleaning supplies.
Now, the CDC considers the risk of getting COVID-19 from a surface to be pretty low. According to the CDC, unless someone in your household is sick, or someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 as been in your home in the past 24 hours, you do not need to use disinfectant.
That being said, it’s still important to clean. You just don’t need to use disinfectant — cleaning with a household cleaner that contains detergent or soap is enough to reduce the amount of germs of surfaces and lower the risk of getting infected from touching a surface.
Focus on high-touch surfaces, like doorknobs, handles, and light switches.
Listen to Medical Professionals. And Only Medical Professionals
There have been reports of COVID-19-related scams, such as individuals offering treatments, vaccines, and home-testing kits. Do not take any medication, vaccine, or test that has not been prescribed by your provider. If you have questions, you can always call your primary care provider or the Children’s COVID-19 Help Line at 402-955-3200.