With all the sobering news about the new coronavirus and COVID-19, the disorder that the virus causes, worried moms and dads can feel much better about a single factor: Currently, the illness seems to be considerably milder in babies and kids.
Nevertheless, there is currently no vaccine, therefore parents should do everything they can to shield kids from accessing it. Aaron Milstone, M.D., M.H.S., a pediatrician at the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center and an infectious disease specialist at The Johns Hopkins Hospital, has a few practical tips.
How to Protect Your Kids from the Coronavirus and COVID-19
Milestone states, “Children are vulnerable to COVID-19 when the virus connections their eyes, nose, mouth or lungs. This normally takes place when nearby infected individual coughs or sneezes, which releases respiratory droplets into the air and onto the child’s face or nearby surfaces like tables, food or hands.”
He says the best way to stop kids from getting ill with COVID-19 is to avoid exposing them to people who are (or who might be) sick with the virus:
- Avoid crowds. Keep children away from busy areas when possible.
- Stay away from sick people. Keep children at least 6 feet away from anybody who is sick with a cough or fever, including relatives.
Hand-washing and Coronavirus Prevention for Children
How to wash hands. Milstone advises parents to teach kids to wash their hands regularly, with soap and warm water, for at least 20 seconds. “They can help keep track of time by singing the ABCs, which takes about 20 seconds to finish,” he says.
When to wash hands. Kids should wash their hands after using the bathroom, sneezing, coughing or blowing their nose, before eating (even snacks) and immediately after coming inside from playing outdoors.
Kids who balk. Milstone says, “If your child is refusing to wash their hands or becoming very upset when asked to do so, it might help to give them a small reward, such as a sticker, to celebrate each time they wash their hands. Compliment them for doing a really good job while washing their hands.” It also helps when parents set an example by washing their own hands frequently.
If soap and water are not available, Milstone says the next best option is hand sanitizer.
Other Coronavirus Prevention Tips for Families
Cough and sneeze with care. “Invite everyone in the family to cough and sneeze into their elbow, rather than their hands, and to wash their hands after every time this occurs,” Milestone states. “Throw away cells as soon as they are used,” he adds.
Keep your hands faces off. Parents should remind children to avoid touching their face as much as you can. Milestone says it can help if kids carry a toy that will keep their hands busy, but he notes that parents must wash those toys regularly.
Keep things tidy. Wipe down toys and surfaces your child touches regularly, particularly when traveling or if near a person who is sick. Clean surfaces at home and shop cleaners in closets which are either too high for your child to achieve or are secured with childproof cabinet locks. (More cleaning recommendations are available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.)
Address stress and anxiety. Discussing things as a family will help identify specific anxieties and clarify the facts. It also helps families to discuss a strategy if someone gets ill, if a school closes or something else occurs that interrupts the routine.
“Children will look for you when deciding how to consider COVID-19. Should you’re feeling calm and prepared, they’re very likely to feel similarly,” Milestone notes.
Children with Medical Conditions
Illness: Kids with asthma could have more severe symptoms from COVID-19 or any other respiratory disease, including the flu. As yet, there aren’t any signs that many children with asthma experience severe symptoms due to the coronavirus, but watch them carefully and, if symptoms develop, call the child’s physician to talk about the next steps and to arrange appropriate evaluation as necessary.
Diabetes: Control of blood glucose is essential. Kids with well-managed diabetes are not expected to become more susceptible to COVID-19. But poorly controlled diabetes may weaken the immune system, therefore parents and doctors should watch these children carefully for signs and symptoms that may require evaluation.
Kids and families can reduce coronavirus risk together
Though more is yet to be known about the new coronavirus, COVID-19 appears to have less severe health implications for children than for adults, which is reassuring news. Still, it’s important to prevent infection among kids and help prevent the virus from spreading. Families with kids can work together to decrease the risk.
Are COVID-19 symptoms different in children than in adults?
The indications of COVID-19 are similar in children and adults. However, children with COVID-19 generally present with moderate symptoms. It’s uncommon for children to get so sick they need to visit the hospital due to COVID-19. Reported symptoms in children include cough, fever, sore throat, difficulty breathing, and diarrhea. It’s not known yet if children who have underlying medical conditions could be at a higher risk for severe illness compared with otherwise healthy children. We are all still learning how COVID-19 affects children. Find out more about COVID-19 symptoms.
It’s important to follow instructions if you think your child is ill with COVID-19 and when your child is diagnosed with COVID-19.
What are the signs that a child with COVID-19 requires immediate emergency medical attention?
Emergency warning signs include:
- Difficulty breathing
- Inability to keep down any liquids
- New confusion or inability to awaken
- Bluish lips