As the nation moves past two years since the first COVID-19 outbreaks, it can often feel like the pandemic is over. Kids have been back in school for at least a full year, the vast majority of places no longer require a mask for entry, and even air travel is back to 2019 levels.
Though hospitalizations and deaths are far below 2020 levels, it’s still in a parent’s nature to worry about the virus, especially for their children. Although the risks are low compared to adults and the elderly, it’s important to know what to do if your child tests positive.
At Ross Bridge Medical Center Pediatrics in Hoover, Alabama, we perform rapid antigen and PCR COVID-19 testing as well as antibody testing for both pediatric and adult patients. These tests can be used for travel or to test if you suspect infection.
In this blog, Nicolette Marak, MD, discusses COVID-19 in children, testing, and what to do if your child has COVID-19.
COVID-19 in children
Overall, children have represented about 19% of total COVID-19 cases in the United States. While just as likely to contract the virus as adults and the elderly, children are less likely to become severely ill.
In fact, about 50% of children are asymptomatic. As with adults, children with certain medical conditions, including diabetes, obesity, heart disease, genetic conditions, and cancer, have a higher risk of developing a serious illness. Newborns are also at a higher risk.
The symptoms of COVID-19 are fairly similar to adults, with cough and fever being the most common. Other symptoms include:
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Muscle or body aches
- Sore throat
- New loss of taste or smell
- New fatigue
- Nausea or vomiting
- Congestion or runny nose
Although less of a concern during the summer months, COVID-19 and the flu share many symptoms. A test is the best way to determine if a child has COVID-19.
You should get your child tested for COVID-19 if they have symptoms of fever, cough, runny nose, shortness of breath or body aches. Additionally, consider testing if you or your family have traveled within or outside the United States to an area with the ongoing spread of coronavirus or if you have come in contact with anyone with symptoms of coronavirus.
What to do
If your child gets infected with COVID-19, here’s how you and your child should respond:
Under current CDC guidelines, your child should isolate for five days. For those experiencing symptoms, the isolation period should start after the first full day they feel sick. Asymptomatic children should start their isolation period the day after their positive test.
Teenagers should isolate themselves from family members by staying in their room and using a different bathroom if possible. For children too young to fully isolate, try to keep them six feet away from other family members and wear a well-fitting mask when in close contact.
Wear a mask
If five days have passed, your child’s symptoms have abated, and they have been fever-free for 24 hours, your child may return to school or other activities if they wear a mask for the following five days. Children who are too young to wear a mask must isolate for 10 days.
The best way to prevent COVID-19 is vaccination, even after a person has had the virus. Vaccines offer the highest level of protection against COVID-19. Overall, vaccines and boosters provide the best means to protect your family from COVID-19 and combat the spread of the virus.