My child is sick. What if it’s COVID-19?

Welcome to the cold and flu season! The fall weather heralds in a whole host of recurring viruses and illnesses for our children and ourselves to be exposed to. In the midst of a worldwide pandemic, what’s a parent to do?

First of all, let’s take a deep breath. COVID-19 is an illness that generally only causes serious concerns for about 10% of children. Most children will present with mild symptoms (e.g., cough, body aches, fevers, fatigue, sore throat, runny noses) that may be indistinguishable from other illnesses, such as influenza.

People at high risk for serious COVID-19 infections are the elderly and those with serious diseases that cause weakened immune systems or have chronic concerns with their lungs or heart.

What is a true exposure to COVID-19?

If you or your child has spent more than 15 minutes with a person who is positive for COVID-19 and you were within 6 feet of distance during that 15 minutes, your child has had an exposure. (Learn more about close contact and exposure from the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control.)

How do I know if my child has COVID-19?

You may not! Remember, the most important thing is to treat the symptoms that your child has and make sure you are watching for symptoms that would indicate that they would need to seek a higher level of care. Stay in good communication with your child’s doctor for specific advice for your child. They may recommend that your child be seen for an office visit or be seen at an urgent care.

Look for emergency warning signs for COVID-19. If someone is showing any of these signs, seek emergency medical care immediately (call 911 or go to the Emergency room):

  • Trouble breathing (increase in work of breathing, rapid or fast breathing).
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest.
  • New confusion.
  • Inability to wake or stay awake.
  • Bluish lips or face.

What do I do if my child’s sick?

Unless your child has symptoms that require a higher level of care, stay home! The Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) recommends that when people are sick, they need to stay home to prevent the spread of all diseases to others.

How long someone can spread the virus that causes COVID-19 is still under investigation. It’s possible for people to spread the virus for about two days before experiencing signs or symptoms and remain contagious for at least 10 days after signs or symptoms first appeared. So in general, once you notice symptoms of illness, you should isolate for 10 days after those symptoms to help prevent the spread of illness.

Remember that even if your child is asymptomic, they could be contagious if they have COVID-19. So it’s important to quarantine and avoid contact with others if they’ve been exposed to COVID-19 and may be infected.

How can I reduce my child’s chance of getting COVID-19?

Prevention of illness is the key! Remind your child to keep social distance, wash their hands frequently, and keep their face covered as recommended. Be sure to clean and disinfect “high touch” surfaces daily. This helps prevent the spread of many of our illnesses including influenza and COVID-19. Make sure to get your seasonal flu shot to help decrease your risk of catching the flu. Flu shots should be given to all people over 6 months of age.

Talk with your child’s primary care provider if you have questions about your child’s health or risk of contracting COVID-19.

Amy Spangler, CNP, is a certified nurse practitioner at ProMedica Urgent Care for Kids, located in Perrysburg.

For the latest updates on COVID-19, please visit ProMedica’ s Resource Center or the CDC’s website.

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