This post is also available in: Svenska
Facts and advice about the Coronavirus COVID-19 in children written by pediatricians for parents. The Coronavirus usually causes mild illness in children. Common corona symptoms include fever, cough, runny nose, vomiting or diarrhea. Loss of smell and taste can also occur. Read about what to do and how to know if your child has COVID-19.
Symptoms of the Coronavirus COVID-19
The first symptoms of the Coronavirus COVID-19 are often cough, body aches and fever, similar to the common cold symptoms. Symptoms that are strongly correlated to COVID-19 in particular, is loss of smell and taste. These symptoms are more common in COVID-19 than in other respiratory infections. Another symptom can be skin rash. And lastly, there are some children who may also first present with vomiting and/or diarrhea.
Some people, more likely in children, have very mild symptoms. Many experience more serious symptoms and need to rest for a couple of weeks. Most recover. But a few percent of those who get sick, can have COVID-19 symptoms such as fever, fatigue and shortness of breath that may last for many months. A few experience severe pneumonia after a week or so and will need hospital care. Some become very seriously ill and need intensive care. About 0.3-0.5% of those infected die. These are mainly elderly people and people with underlying chronic illness who are at risk. Hospital-intensive COVID-19 is more common in men than in women, and especially overweight men.
A few children have contracted an inflammatory disease associated with the Coronavirus pandemic called MIS-C. Children with MIS-C develop a high fever and appear seriously ill and generally subdued. If this is the case for your child, you should seek medical care regardless of whether there is a Coronavirus epidemic or not.
Coronavirus testing recommendations for children
Please check your local health authorities for specific Coronavirus testing recommendations in children.
At the beginning of the Coronavirus epidemic in 2020, the health services in Sweden rationed the Coronavirus tests to prioritize healthcare workers and at-risk patients. By the summer of 2020, the laboratories had increased their capacity and began to recommend all adults with cold symptoms, to undergo a PCR test for ongoing detection. In August 2020, Swedish authorities also recommended school children with cold symptoms to be tested.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Dec 2020, children should be tested if they have symptoms consistent with COVID-19 or was in close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19.
In UK on Sep 2020, the NHS recommends children be tested if they have the main Coronavirus symptoms. This includes: “high temperature, loss or change of smell and taste, and a new, continuous cough”.
You need to do the PCR test on day 2-3 from the day the first symptoms appear, in order to have a reasonable chance of detecting the infection. Only 80% of those who have the Coronavirus will be detected positive if a healthcare professional takes the sample far back in the nose. And only 60% of those who have the Coronavirus will be detected by a positive PCR result if a healthcare professional takes a throat sample. Therefore you can have the Coronavirus even if you have a negative PCR test and especially if the test was taken in the throat. Additionally, you are also more likely to get a false negative result if you test your child at a self-testing station, as the test may also not be conducted accurately.
If your school-age child catches a cold, go to a medical center and see if it is possible to book an appointment.
How long should you stay at home if your child has COVID-19?
The Coronavirus is contagious for about a week after the first symptoms appear and longer in those who have been very seriously ill and cared for in hospital. Therefore, children should be at home until their symptoms resolve PLUS two days or for at least seven days after the first symptoms of any respiratory infections during the Coronavirus periods.
According to the Swedish Public Health Agency, preschool children can return to preschool after seven days if they are well enough, even if they have mild persistent symptoms such as a slight cough or runny nose.
Having said that, please check your local health authorities for recommendations.
The CDC recommends that if a child has COVID-19 symptoms but hasn’t been in contact with confirmed cases nor likely to have increased exposure to SARS-CoV-2 AND confirmed not likely to have COVID-19 by a healthcare provider, then the child can return to school according to current school policies.
Treatment of Coronavirus in children
The treatment at home is the same as in all other cases of respiratory infections in children. Make sure your children drink plenty of fluids with some form of energy, i.e. liquids with sugar in it and resume eating food as normal. If your children are too tired to drink, give acetaminophen or ibuprofen or both. If your children have difficulty breathing or high fever and general malaise that do not subside with acetaminophen or ibuprofen, seek emergency care.
Coronavirus in children with asthma
Children with asthma have not been shown to have symptoms more severe than other children. And unfortunately, children with asthma can experience coughing for a few weeks after each cold. This can often be confused with COVID symptoms and consequently lead to children being sent home from school. From autumn 2020, new guidelines in Sweden will allow children with asthma to attend preschool and school with less restrictions.
Get your child tested as soon as possible to avoid them from unnecessarily missing school. And check your local health authorities for recommendations.
Always try to treat your child’s asthma so that they do not have noticeable symptoms. If your child has a lot of symptoms or uncontrolled asthma, see your child’s doctor for a review.
Protecting grandparents from the coronavirus
Older people are generally more likely to become seriously ill from respiratory infections. That particularly applies if they contract the Coronavirus. The mortality rate among older people is likely to be a few percent of those affected. The risk increases the older you get. This means that grandparents should not take care of their sick grandchildren.
COVID-19 in Sweden
If you want to know more about the Coronavirus, please visit your local health agency website. Public health experts will update the page as soon as new facts arrive. Information will be updated frequently now as more research is being conducted on the new virus. Unfortunately, new myths and conspiracy theories, too, will arise, so it is wise to stick to reliable sources.