3 Things to Know About COVID-19 and Children

Children do not appear to be at higher risk of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) than adults, and while some children and infants have been sick with COVID-19, adults make up the vast majority of known cases to date, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Children make up about 1.7 percent of COVID-19 cases in the United States.

Still, the virus must be taken seriously, even in kids. Some children have been hospitalized, and in rare cases some have died from the virus. Many parents wonder what to do if their child gets sick. Here’s what you need to know.

Signs and Symptoms of COVID-19 in Children

Symptoms of COVID-19 in children are similar to those of common respiratory viruses, and they may be milder than adult symptoms of COVID-19. Children may be infected and not show any signs or symptoms, but they still can spread the disease to others.

COVID-19 symptoms in children include:

  • Fever
  • Symptoms of respiratory infection (runny nose, sore throat)
  • Cough
  • Nasal congestion
  • Vomiting and diarrhea

Call your child’s doctor if your child has any of these symptoms.

Children with Chronic Conditions Face Higher Risk

Children with underlying health problems and chronic conditions such as lung disease, diabetes, obesity and immune suppression are at higher risk of severe complications from COVID-19.

“You want to be especially careful with those children,” says Stephanie Duggins Davis, MD, physician-in-chief at UNC Children’s and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the UNC School of Medicine.

In addition, health experts warn that children can develop a rare condition linked to COVID-19 called pediatric multisystem inflammatory syndrome, or PMIS. Also called multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C), it is potentially life-threatening and requires immediate medical attention.

To help protect your child from COVID-19, encourage the use of face coverings (if age 2 or older), good hand hygiene and physical distancing.

Don’t Delay Care

Whether or not your child has COVID-19, it is important for him or her to continue to get regular checkups and immunizations, and to receive care in case of illness.

“We’ve had children presenting with more severe illness to our emergency room because parents are afraid to be seen. They really need to take the child in,” Dr. Davis says. “We’ve made it very safe for them to come into the emergency room, urgent care center and our clinics.”

For the latest information on COVID-19, visit the CDC website and the UNC Health COVID-19 Resources page, and follow UNC Health on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.