What is coronavirus (covid-19)?

Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Coronavirus (COVID-19) in children: Overview

The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is caused by a virus. Symptoms may include a fever, a cough, and shortness of breath. Your child may also have a stomachache or belly pain and may not feel like eating.

COVID-19 can spread through droplets from coughing, sneezing, breathing, and singing. It also can spread when people are in close contact with someone who is infected.

Some children have no symptoms. But most children have mild symptoms and can be cared for at home. If symptoms get worse, they may need care in a hospital. Treatment may include medicines to reduce symptoms, plus breathing support such as oxygen therapy or a ventilator.

It's important to not spread the virus to others. If your child has COVID-19, they should:

  • Wear a mask anytime they're around other people. A mask can help stop the spread of the virus. Children under 2 years of age should not wear a mask.
  • Stay away from others in the home. When possible, your child should stay in a separate bedroom and use a separate bathroom.
  • Stay home. Your child should only leave home to get medical care.

What happens when you have COVID-19?

COVID-19 usually causes mild illness, similar to the flu. But some people get much sicker. They may develop pneumonia or other problems that need to be treated in the hospital. Some people die.

People with mild illness usually recover in about 2 weeks. But some people have health problems that last much longer. These may include fatigue, cough, shortness of breath, pain in the chest, and depression or anxiety.

The virus can affect many parts of the body. These include the heart, lungs, and brain. Experts will learn more about how COVID-19 affects long-term health over time.

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

COVID-19 symptoms may include:

  • Fever.
  • Cough.
  • Trouble breathing.
  • Chills or repeated shaking with chills.
  • Muscle and body aches.
  • Headache.
  • Sore throat.
  • New loss of taste or smell.
  • Vomiting.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Stuffy or runny nose.

In severe cases, COVID-19 can cause pneumonia and make it hard to breathe without help from a machine. It can cause death.

How is COVID-19 treated?

Mild illness can usually be treated at home with over-the-counter medicine to relieve symptoms. But your doctor may prescribe medicine to help reduce the risk of serious illness. People who get very sick need to be treated in the hospital. Treatment may include medicines and breathing support, such as oxygen therapy or a ventilator.

How can you protect yourself and others from COVID-19?

How can you protect yourself and others from COVID-19?

  • Stay up to date on your COVID-19 vaccines.
  • Avoid sick people, and stay away from others if you are sick.
  • Keep some physical distance between yourself and other people.
  • Avoid crowds, especially indoors.
  • Wear a mask with the best fit, protection, and comfort for you. A mask can help protect you even when others aren't wearing one.
  • Get tested for COVID-19 before you have an indoor visit with people who don't live with you.
  • Improve airflow. If you have to spend time indoors with others, open windows and doors. Or you can use a fan to blow air away from people and out a window.
  • Choose outdoor visits and activities when possible.
  • Cover your mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.
  • Wash your hands often.
  • Avoid touching your mouth, nose, and eyes.

Here are some other steps you may need to take.

  • If you were exposed to someone with COVID-19 AND you don't have symptoms:
    • For at least 10 full days, wear a high-quality mask when you are around other people, even those you live with.
    • Get tested. Do it right away if you develop symptoms. Wait at least 5 days after you were exposed if you don't have symptoms.
    • If your test is positive, call your doctor right away. The doctor may have you take a medicine to keep you from getting seriously ill. Treatment works best when started early. And isolate right away.
    • Take extra care if you have to be around other people who are at high risk of getting seriously ill from COVID-19. Keep some extra space between yourself and others, for example.
    • Watch for symptoms.

    If you are sick or test positive for COVID-19:

    • Talk to your doctor as soon as you can. Your doctor may have you take medicine to help prevent serious illness.
    • Get a COVID-19 test unless you have already been tested. You may need to be tested more than once.
    • Stay home and separate yourself from others, including those you live with. Limit contact with people in your home. If possible, stay in a separate bedroom and use a separate bathroom. For at least 10 full days, anytime you're around other people, you and they should wear a high-quality mask. Children younger than 2 years old don't need to wear a mask.
    • Self-isolate until it's safe to be around others again. (Important: Day 0 is the day your symptoms started or the day you tested positive. Day 1 is the day after your symptoms first started or your test was positive.)
      • If you tested positive but had no symptoms, it's safe to end isolation at the end of Day 5. But if you start to have symptoms, follow the recommendations below and count your first day of symptoms as Day 0.
      • If you have symptoms, when you can end isolation depends on how sick you were and your overall health. No matter what, you need to wait until your symptoms are getting better and you haven't had a fever for 24 hours while not taking medicines to lower the fever. Here's how long to isolate, based on your symptoms:
        • If you were only a little sick: (This means you might have felt really bad but had no shortness of breath and never needed to be in the hospital.) You can end isolation at the end of Day 5.
        • If you were more sick: (You had some shortness of breath or some trouble breathing but never needed to be in the hospital.) You can end isolation at the end of Day 10.
        • If you were very sick and needed to be in the hospital, or if you have a weakened immune system: You can end isolation at the end of Day 10 or later. Talk to your doctor to find out when it's safe to end isolation. You may need a viral test.
        • After you end isolation, if your symptoms come back or get worse: Restart your isolation at Day 0. Do this even if it happens after you took medicine for COVID.
    • Avoid travel and stay away from people at high risk for serious disease for at least 10 days.
    • Those who can't wear a mask because they are under 2 years old or have certain disabilities should isolate for at least 10 full days.

Check the CDC website at cdc.gov for the most current information on how to protect yourself.

How is COVID-19 diagnosed?

COVID-19 is diagnosed with a viral test. This may also be called a PCR test or an antigen test. The test is usually done on a sample from your nose, throat, or lungs. But sometimes it's done on a sample of saliva.

How can you care for your child when they have COVID-19?

  • Make sure your child gets extra rest. It can help them feel better.
  • Have your child drink plenty of fluids. This helps replace fluids lost from fever, vomiting, or diarrhea. Fluids may also help ease a scratchy throat.
  • If your doctor prescribed medicine for COVID-19, give it to your child exactly as directed.
  • Ask your doctor if you can give your child acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) for fever or muscle and body aches. Do not use ibuprofen if your child is less than 6 months old unless the doctor gave you instructions to use it. Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label. Do not give aspirin to anyone younger than 20. It has been linked to Reye syndrome, a serious illness.
  • Use petroleum jelly on your child's sore skin. This can help if the skin around their nose and lips becomes sore from rubbing a lot with tissues. If your child is using oxygen, use a water-based product instead of petroleum jelly.
  • Keep track of symptoms such as fever and shortness of breath. This can help you know if you need to call your doctor. Ask your doctor when it's safe for your child to be around other people.

Coping when things feel out of control

When life feels chaotic or overwhelming, it can be easy to get stuck in a cycle of stress and worry. But there are things you can do to cope with worry and find some calm. Here are some tips.

  • Acknowledge your feelings.

    Try to recognize what you're feeling when you're feeling it, without judging it as "good" or "bad." It might help to write down how you're feeling and why.

  • Pay attention to your mindset.

    The way you think about things really does affect the way you feel. If you tell yourself that something is too hard or too stressful, it's going to feel that way. But if you tell yourself you can handle something hard, you're more likely to be able to.

  • Focus more on what you can control and less on what you can't.

    Here are some ideas:

    • Make a list of the things that cause you stress. Then decide which things on the list you can take action on and which ones you can't. This can remind you what's in your control and what isn't.
    • Look for sources of stress that you can limit. Then take steps to limit them. That might mean turning off the news, staying away from social media, or even having less contact with certain people.
    • Choose to spend time on things that are meaningful to you. For example, you could do projects with your kids, foster an animal, write postcards to friends, or do random acts of kindness for your neighbors. Do things that make you feel good or bring you joy.
    • Find ways to keep your mind off of your worries and fears. It could be a project, a hobby, or even making an effort to call a friend on the phone once a week. Whatever you decide, choose things that are in line with your values.
  • Be careful about coping strategies that might make things worse.

    Keeping yourself busy might take your mind off your stress. But it can also exhaust you or even add stress. A glass of wine or a beer in the evening may help some people relax. But drinking isn't a great way to deal with stress. It can actually make stress and anxiety worse. If you find that stress and anxiety are making it hard to manage daily life, talk to a doctor or a counselor.

What puts you at high risk for serious illness from COVID-19?

COVID-19 causes a mild illness in many people who get it. But certain things may increase your risk for more serious illness. These include:

  • Age.
    • Older adults are at highest risk. The risk increases with age.
    • Babies born premature or who are less than 6 months old may also be at high risk.
  • Asthma, cystic fibrosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and other chronic lung diseases.
  • A weakened immune system or taking medicines, such as steroids, that suppress the immune system. This also includes medicines taken because of an organ transplant.
  • Smoking or having a history of smoking.
  • Serious heart conditions, such as heart failure, coronary artery disease, or high blood pressure.
  • Tuberculosis (TB).
  • HIV.
  • Cancer or getting treatment for cancer.
  • Conditions that involve the nerves and brain. Examples include stroke, dementia, and cerebral palsy.
  • Being overweight (obesity).
  • Diabetes.
  • Chronic kidney disease.
  • Liver disease.
  • Substance use disorders.
  • Sickle cell disease.
  • Pregnancy or a recent pregnancy.
  • Genetic, metabolic, or neurologic problems in children. This includes children who may have many health problems that affect many body systems. These problems may limit how well the child can do routine activities of daily life.
  • Down syndrome.
  • Mood disorders, such as depression or schizophrenia.

Some people have a higher risk of getting very sick or dying from COVID-19 because of where they live or work. The risk can also be higher if people don't have access to health care. This includes people from certain racial and ethnic minority groups, as well as people with disabilities.

This is not a complete list. If you have a chronic health problem, ask your doctor if you should take extra precautions. The more of these things you have, the higher your risk for serious illness. Talk with your doctor about ways to manage your risk.

What is long COVID?

Most people who have COVID-19 recover in a few days or weeks. But some people have health problems that last for weeks, months, or years. This is often called long COVID. It can happen even if the illness caused mild or no symptoms. But it's more common if your illness was serious.

What is COVID-19?

COVID-19 is a disease caused by a type of coronavirus. This illness was first found in 2019 and has since spread worldwide (pandemic). Symptoms can range from mild, such as fever and body aches, to severe, including trouble breathing. COVID-19 can be deadly.

Coronaviruses are a large group of viruses. Some types cause the common cold. Others cause more serious illnesses like Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).

COVID-19: 7 Ways to Stay Safe When You're at High Risk

Coronavirus (COVID-19): When to call

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if you have life-threatening symptoms, such as:

  • You have severe trouble breathing. (You can't talk at all.)
  • You have constant chest pain or pressure.
  • You are severely dizzy or lightheaded.
  • You are confused or can't think clearly.
  • You have pale, gray, or blue-colored skin or lips.
  • You pass out (lose consciousness) or are very hard to wake up.

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have moderate trouble breathing. (You can't speak a full sentence.)
  • You are coughing up blood.
  • You have signs of low blood pressure. These include feeling lightheaded; being too weak to stand; and having cold, pale, clammy skin.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • Your symptoms get worse.
  • You are not getting better as expected.
  • You have new or worse symptoms of anxiety, depression, nightmares, or flashbacks.

If you go to the doctor's office, wear a mask.

©2011-2024 Healthwise, Incorporated

The content above contains general health information provided by Healthwise, Incorporated, and reviewed by its medical experts. This content should not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Not all treatments or services described are offered as services by us. For recommended treatments, please consult your healthcare provider.