Kids and COVID-19: Answers to 15 important questions

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How the coronavirus can affect your children

The coronavirus disease COVID-19 has affected nearly every aspect of daily life, including children’s routines. Most schools, sports, and social activities are at a standstill.

Dr. Catherine Ohmstede

Dr. Catherine Ohmstede, Novant Health pediatric physician leader in the greater Charlotte market, answered questions about how kids can lessen their chances of getting sick, tips on travel, how to communicate with youngsters about COVID-19 and other important topics.

Q: What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

A: Symptoms can include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. Symptoms of COVID-19 may appear in as few as two days or as long as 14 days after exposure.

Q: How is coronavirus transmitted?

A: We understand that the virus spreads through close person-to-person contact. Much like the flu, when an infected person coughs or sneezes, respiratory droplets are produced with the potential to infect those nearby. COVID-19 is also spread through contact with fecal matter.

Q: Is COVID-19 affecting children differently than adults?

A: The majority of infants, children, and adolescents with COVID-19, who traditionally are more susceptible to severe respiratory infections, have had more mild cases of the infection and recovered within one to two weeks.

Q: What is the risk of my child becoming sick with COVID-19?

A: Based on available evidence, children do not appear to be at higher risk for COVID-19 than adults. While some children and infants have been sick with COVID-19, adults make up most of the known cases to date.

Q: What is the best way to protect my family from COVID-19?  

A: The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus. This includes everyday preventive actions, including washing your hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom, before eating and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth. Avoid close contact with people who are sick. Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.

Q: Should I buy masks for me and my family?

A: No. It is not recommended that people who are well wearing a face mask to protect themselves from COVID-19. Face masks should be used by individuals who show symptoms of COVID-19 to help prevent the spread of the disease to others.

Q: What should we tell our kids so that they understand the seriousness of it, but don’t panic themselves (especially young children)?

A: Answer questions and share facts about COVID-19 in a way that your child or teen can understand. Reassure your child or teen that they are safe. Let them know it is OK if they feel upset. Share with them how you deal with your own stress so that they can learn how to cope with you. Try to keep up with regular routines. If schools are closed, create a schedule for learning activities and relaxing or fun activities. Take breaks, get plenty of sleep, exercise and eat well.

Q: If I suspect my child or I might have COVID-19, what is the protocol for seeking medical attention?

A: If you suspect you have coronavirus, or have symptoms that include fever or lower respiratory infection symptoms like cough or shortness of breath, call your Novant Health provider before arriving for an appointment. Novant Health offers a variety of e-visit options and TytoCare to help save you a trip to your physician’s office. For severe symptoms or a medical emergency, call 911. Novant Health has also opened dedicated coronavirus screening centers. These sites are convenient for individuals who suspect they have coronavirus and want prompt screening. For information on screening centers or coronavirus questions, please contact our free 24/7 helpline: 1-877-499-1697.

Q: What is the treatment for COVID-19? 

A: There is currently no vaccine to prevent or treat COVID-19. People with COVID-19 should receive supportive care, like rest and drinking lots of fluids, to help relieve symptoms.

Q: What should we do if there is a positive case in one of our social, school or work circles? 

A: Stay calm. Stay informed. Keep practicing everyday preventive basics (washing your hands, covering your coughs and sneezes, hand sanitizer, etc.) Work from home, if you can. Avoid crowded places.

Q: If we are ordered to self-quarantine, what exactly does that mean?

A: Quarantining means staying home and away from other people as much as possible for 14 days. If this happens and you don’t live alone, retreat to your room or find a separate area in the house, and don’t go out shopping, eating or socializing.

Q: Should we cancel spring break plans that involve air travel in the U.S.? Outside of the U.S.?

A: The CDC recommends that travelers avoid all nonessential travel to China, Iran, the United Kingdom, Ireland, most European countries and South Korea.

Within the United States, cases of COVID-19 have been reported in nearly every state, and some areas are experiencing community spread of the disease. Crowded travel settings, like airports, may increase your risk of exposure to COVID-19.

Travelers need to consider how much close contact they’ll experience during travel, how widespread the disease is where you’re headed to, and if anyone in your travel party is at higher risk (older adults and people of any age with serious chronic medical conditions, such as heart disease, lung disease or diabetes). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that travelers at higher risk for COVID-19 complications avoid all cruise travel and nonessential air travel. You shouldn’t do any more travel than is essential for now to reduce possible exposure.

Q: What if mom is pregnant – are the risks higher?

A: The CDC doesn’t know if pregnant women have a greater chance of getting sick from COVID-19 than the general public, nor whether they are more likely to have a serious illness as a result. Pregnant women experience changes in their bodies that may increase their risk of some infections. With viruses from the same family as COVID-19, and other viral respiratory infections, such as influenza, women have had a higher risk of developing severe illness. It is always important for pregnant women to protect themselves from illnesses.

Q: Are infected people able to transmit the virus to their pets and vice versa?

A: No. There is no evidence that pets such as cats and dogs have been infected or could spread the virus that causes COVID-19, according to the World Health Organization.

Q: Where can I go for the latest information?

A: For the most up-to-date information, visit or

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