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.
Again, 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. The current recommendation is that only people who have symptoms or have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 be tested.
Not sure if your child needs medical care for COVID-19? Use our online symptom checker for guidance on the next steps.
At Children’s, we are not screening the general public at this time. If you suspect that you or another adult in the home has been exposed or has symptoms, please contact your primary care provider to see if you’re eligible for testing.
Treatment for COVID-19There is currently no treatment available for COVID-19, 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.
Will There Ever Be a Treatment?
Researchers are working on this every day. There’s no guaranteeing when they will develop a treatment or get it approved, but the good news is that there have been a few experimental treatments that have shown promise — and the scientific community is doing everything in their power to find the answers.
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 a new illness, so scientists and healthcare professionals are still learning about how it spreads. But we do know that it is very contagious — in fact, it’s now been shown to be more contagious than the flu.
COVID-19 is thought to spread primarily from person to person, including when people are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet). 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.
One of the most important things to remember is that people can spread the illness even if they aren’t showing any symptoms at all. That’s why staying 6 feet away from others, even if they seem perfectly healthy, is so critical. Approach every situation as though you and those around you all have COVID-19.
Contact With Contaminated Objects or Surfaces
COVID-19 can also live on objects and surfaces, such as elevator buttons, toys, doorknobs, or countertops. If you touch a surface that has been contaminated, and then touch your own mouth, nose, or eyes, you risk becoming infected.
Social Distancing and Flattening the CurveSince COVID-19 is most often spread from person to person, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued social distancing guidelines.
Social distancing means keeping physical distance between yourself and others, even if you or they are not experiencing symptoms. It includes:
- Staying at least 6 feet away from others
- Not gathering in groups
- Staying away from crowded places or mass gatherings
- Canceling your children’s playdates
Remember — social distancing doesn’t mean social isolating. Video chatting with your friends and setting up virtual playdates for your kids can help you and your family stay sane and prevent loneliness.
Flattening the Curve
Social distancing doesn’t just keep you and your family safe. It also helps prevent the spread of the disease to others, and works to “flatten the curve.”
The goal of flattening the curve is to slow down the spread of the virus, which reduces the number of cases at any given time. This is very important for hospitals since COVID-19 can require hospitalization and has already put a significant strain on hospitals and first responders. By flattening the curve, hospitals and first-responders can get the time, space, and personnel needed to prepare and respond. As a result, it keeps them from becoming overwhelmed by an influx of patients.
Protecting Yourself and Your Family from COVID-19The most effective way to prevent contracting COVID-19 is to avoid exposure in the first place. This means that in addition to social distancing, 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.
Use a Face Covering
The CDC recommends adults and children 2 years and older should wear a face mask if they have to go out in public and cannot realistically maintain a distance of 6 feet from others, such as at the grocery store. Do not put a mask on your child if they are under 2 years old since this can increase the risk of suffocation.
You don’t need to wear a mask made for medical professionals — you can wear a homemade mask, or tie a scarf or bandana around your face. Remember that wearing a mask does not mean you can forego social distancing.
Children’s is currently requiring everyone (patients, family members, staff) to wear a face mask while in any of our facilities.
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.
Clean and Disinfect Frequently
Coronavirus can live on surfaces for hours or even days. This means that you should clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces every day. Most EPA-registered household disinfectants will kill coronavirus.
Is there a COVID-19 Vaccine?There is no COVID-19 vaccine…yet. However, healthcare professionals are working vigilantly to produce one. Vaccinations take time to develop in order to ensure they’re safe and effective.
Listen to Medical Professionals. And Only Medical Professionals
There have been reports of COVID-19-related scams, such as people 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.