About coronavirus (COVID-19)
Coronavirus (COVID-19) can make you sick with cold-like and flu-like symptoms.
Coronavirus (COVID-19) spreads easily through sneezing, coughing, breathing, talking and hand contact. The virus can also live on objects that have been in contact with an infected person’s mouth, nose, hands or body fluids. This means the virus can spread if you touch an infected object.
Coronavirus (COVID-19) is a new type of coronavirus. Coronaviruses can cause mild illnesses like the common cold or more severe illnesses like Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).
Coronavirus (COVID-19) is new, so we’re still learning about it and how it affects people, including children. It seems to affect children much less severely than older people.
Australian, state and territory health department websites have the latest and most reliable information and advice about coronavirus (COVID-19). You can also call the Coronavirus Health Information Line on 1800 020 080 or Healthdirect on 1800 022 222. Or download the Australian Government’s Coronavirus Australia app.
Symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19)
Common symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) include:
- symptoms like those of a cold or flu, including runny nose, sneezing, sore throat, cough, aches and pains
- difficulty breathing
- loss of appetite
- loss or altered sense of smell or taste.
Symptoms might come on very quickly and might last 2-5 days. Recovery from symptoms like fatigue might take several weeks depending on how severe the illness has been.
Symptoms can vary from child to child. Some children might not get any symptoms at all, and other children might get mild symptoms.
The incubation period for coronavirus (COVID-19) can be 1-14 days. This means the virus can infect people up to 14 days before symptoms start to appear.
What to do if children have symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19)
If your child has the symptoms above and you’re concerned, here’s what to do:
- Phone the Coronavirus Health Information Line on 1800 020 080 or Healthdirect on 1800 022 222.
- Describe your child’s symptoms, plus anything else that makes you think your child might have coronavirus (COVID-19) – for example, overseas travel or possible contact with an infected person.
- Follow the advice you’re given. This includes advice about staying at home, or taking precautions if you’re told to visit your GP, a local hospital or a screening clinic.
If you’re told to visit your GP, make sure to phone ahead and tell the GP clinic about your coronavirus concerns. Some GPs might be able set up a consultation by phone or video.
If you’re told to visit a hospital or screening clinic (which might be located at a hospital), check your state or territory health department website for locations. Also check whether testing is offered to children at these locations.
You know your child best, so trust your instincts if your child doesn’t seem well. If your child has difficulty breathing, your child’s skin is pale or blue, or your child is drowsy or unresponsive, call 000 for an ambulance. In addition, see your GP or go to a hospital emergency department straight away if your child has a fever for longer than five days and/or swollen neck glands, swollen hands or feet, red eyes or tongue, a skin rash or cracked lips.
Tests for coronavirus (COVID-19)
A doctor or nurse will do a throat and nose swab to test whether your child has coronavirus (COVID-19).
If your child is old enough to understand, it’s a good idea to prepare them by describing the test. For example, you might tell your child that the doctor or nurse will put one little stick up their nose and one little stick up towards the back of their mouth. You could reassure your child that it’s a very quick test.
Treatment and management of coronavirus (COVID-19)
There’s currently no specific treatment for coronavirus (COVID-19) that can make it go away more quickly.
If your child is diagnosed with coronavirus (COVID-19) and your child has uncomfortable symptoms, your doctor or another health professional will let you know how to manage the symptoms. This might include:
- paracetamol – for example, Panadol® and Dymadon®
- lots of fluids and rest.
The doctor or health professional will also tell you how to protect others from infection. This might include a period of isolation from people outside your household until your child’s symptoms go away. This period might be 1-2 weeks.
It’s particularly important to keep your child away from:
- places like child care or school
- people who have weakened immune systems – for example, people with cancer
- elderly people – this might include grandparent carers or elderly relatives in nursing homes.
It’s natural to worry about what coronavirus (COVID-19) might mean for your family. If you’re worried and need support, you could talk to your GP or a local counsellor. You can also call Lifeline on 131 114 or Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636.
Hand-washing to prevent the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19)
Hand-washing is one of the simplest and best ways of preventing the spread of illness, including the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19).
- Wet hands with warm water.
- Put soap on hands.
- Rub hands together for 20 seconds. Rub between the fingers, under the fingernails, and on both sides of the hands.
- Rinse hands under clean, running water.
- Let hands air dry or dry them with a paper towel.
If you’re away from home and there’s no soap and water, your child can use hand sanitiser instead.
Your child should wash hands:
- after coughing, sneezing or blowing their nose
- after using the toilet
- before preparing and eating food
- after being in public places like on public transport
- after being around someone who’s unwell.
It’s important to be a hand-washing and personal hygiene role model. Your child is more likely to have good hygiene if you lead by example.
Personal hygiene to prevent the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19)
Good personal hygiene can help to protect your child from coronavirus (COVID-19) and prevent its spread.
When your child blows their nose, your child should:
- use disposable tissues
- put used tissues in a bin straight away
- carry a disposable bag for used tissues in case there are no bins nearby
- wash their hands with soap after blowing.
When your child sneezes or coughs, your child should:
- avoid sneezing or coughing into their hands
- use disposable tissues, or cover their mouth with a sleeve or elbow
- wash their hands after sneezing or coughing.
You can also encourage your child to keep their hands away from their eyes, nose and mouth as much as possible. This is how the virus gets into the body.
You can also reduce your risk of catching coronavirus (COVID-19) by staying at least 1.5-2 m away from anyone who’s sneezing or coughing, and avoiding close contact with anyone with the virus.
Home hygiene to prevent the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19)
To remove any germs that might have been brought into your house, you can clean frequently touched surfaces and objects daily using a regular household detergent and water. This includes tables, benchtops, light switches, doorknobs and cupboard handles.
Face masks to prevent the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19)
If there’s community spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) in your local area, you might be asked or required to wear a face mask, shield or covering. Check your state and territory health department website for advice on wearing face masks.
The way children feel about face masks during coronavirus restrictions can depend on age. Playing and talking can help younger children cope with face masks. Role-modelling, negotiating and talking can help older children and teenagers cope with face masks.
Flu immunisation and coronavirus (COVID-19)
It’s recommended that all children over the age of six months be immunised against influenza.
Flu immunisation can help health professionals rule out the flu when assessing your child’s symptoms. This is because coronavirus (COVID-19) and the flu have similar symptoms.
Also, if fewer people get the flu, it can help to reduce the demand on the health care system.
Talking to children about coronavirus (COVID-19)
Your child is probably seeing and hearing a lot about coronavirus (COVID-19) on TV, radio and social media, as well as from other people. Talking with your child about coronavirus (COVID-19) can help your child understand and cope with what’s going on.
Make time to talk
Find the right time to talk with your child. This might be when you and your child are sharing a snack, at bedtime or in the car. When your child is ready to talk, give your child your full attention.
Find out what your child knows
It’s a good idea to start by asking your child what they know about the virus and whether they have any questions. For example, ‘On the news today, they were talking about coronavirus. Have you heard people talking about that? What were they saying?’
Explain coronavirus (COVID-19) in a way your child can understand
- Use a calm, reassuring tone and stick to the facts.
- For younger children, keep it simple and brief. For example, ‘That’s right, some people are getting sick with a germ. It makes them cough and sneeze. The sick people are being looked after well by doctors and hospitals’.
- For older children, offer more detail. For example, ‘The virus spreads through things like sneezing, coughing and touching infected things. That’s why good hygiene and hand-washing are really important. They help to protect everyone’.
Tune into your child’s feelings
Some children might not be worried about coronavirus (COVID-19). But some might be frightened, upset or worried. They might be worried about the virus itself or about how it might affect their lives.
Ask your child how they’re feeling and listen to what they say. You can also ask your child what they need to feel better. It might be reassuring if you share your own feelings and let your child know what you’re doing to cope.
- ‘I can see that you’re worried about grandpa getting really sick. I love how caring you are. If anyone we know gets sick, the hospital will take good care of them. Let's have a big hug to help us feel better.’
- ‘It can be scary not knowing what’s going to happen with the virus. Scientists all over the world are working hard to find a vaccine and treatment. In Australia, we have good hospitals, doctors and nurses who can look after us.’
- ‘It’s OK to be worried about catching coronavirus. I sometimes worry too. Some people are only getting minor symptoms like what you get when you have a cold. If I need some good information, I look at the health department website.’
- ‘It’s disappointing we can’t go to the footy on the weekend. But the doctors say that this will help stop the spread of coronavirus, so this is how we can help. Let’s go outside and kick the ball together.’
It’s important to monitor how much media about coronavirus (COVID-19) you and your child are consuming. It’s not helpful for anyone to hear or see distressing news over and over again. If you have the facts you need, it’s often best to switch off or switch to something else.