About COVID-19 and children
COVID-19 can make people sick with cold-like and flu-like symptoms.
Most children who get COVID-19 have mild symptoms or no symptoms at all. Children with some underlying medical conditions might be at slightly higher risk of getting quite sick. But very few children with COVID-19 get sick enough to need hospitalisation. And it’s very rare for children to die.
COVID-19 spreads easily through sneezing, coughing, breathing, talking and hand contact. Also, the virus can 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 object contaminated with COVID-19.
Australian, state and territory health department websites have the latest and most reliable information and advice about COVID-19. You can also call the Coronavirus Helpline on 1800 020 080 or Healthdirect on 1800 022 222.
Symptoms of COVID-19
Symptoms of COVID-19 include:
- symptoms like those of a cold or flu, including runny nose, sneezing, sore throat, cough, headache, and muscle or joint aches and pains
- difficulty breathing
- nausea or loss of appetite
- diarrhoea or vomiting
- temporary loss or altered sense of smell or taste.
Symptoms might come on very quickly and last 2-7 days.
When to get a COVID-19 test for children
If your child has the symptoms above or has been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19, your child should get a COVID-19 test. There are 2 types of COVID-19 tests – PCR tests and RATs.
Check your state or territory health department website for more information about which type of test your child should get and where to get it.
How to manage COVID-19 symptoms at home
There’s currently no specific treatment for COVID-19 that can make it go away more quickly.
If your child has COVID-19 symptoms that are making them feel uncomfortable, you can manage these symptoms at home. Here are things you can do:
- Give your child paracetamol or ibuprofen according to the instructions on the packet. This can help if your child is in pain or has a fever.
- Encourage your child to drink plenty of fluids so that they don’t get dehydrated. Warm drinks can ease a sore throat and dry mouth.
- Don’t force your child to eat. Your child might not be hungry, but their appetite will improve as they start to feel better.
- Encourage your child to take things easy, but there’s no need for them to stay in bed. Let your child decide how active they want to be.
- If you have a young baby with a stuffy nose, you can try using saline nasal spray.
You should avoid the following:
- Cough medicines – your child is coughing because their windpipe is irritated or has a lot of mucus. Cough medicines won’t help with either of these issues.
- Decongestants like Benadryl, Bisolvon, Demazin, Dimetapp, Duro-tuss, Logicin, Robitussin and Sudafed – these don’t help with COVID-19. They also have side effects like rapid heart rate, jitteriness and insomnia.
- Aspirin – aspirin can make your child susceptible to Reye’s syndrome, a rare but potentially fatal illness.
Note also that antibiotics don’t treat COVID-19.
What to do if COVID-19 symptoms get worse
If your child’s symptoms get worse, phone your GP. For example, phone your GP if your child:
- won’t drink fluids or can’t keep fluids down
- vomits frequently
- is unusually tired, confused or sleepy
- has trouble breathing
- has severe or constant headaches or chest pain.
Make sure to tell the GP clinic about your child’s COVID-19 symptoms, test or diagnosis. The clinic will tell you what to do next.
You can also contact the Coronavirus Health Information Line on 1800 020 080 or Healthdirect on 1800 022 222.
If your child has a lot of difficulty breathing, their skin is pale or blue, or they’re drowsy or unresponsive, call 000 for an ambulance. Let them know about your child’s COVID-19 test or diagnosis, and then follow their directions. Also seek medical attention straight away if your child has a fever for more than 3 days and/or swollen neck glands, swollen hands or feet, red eyes or tongue, stomach pain, a skin rash or cracked lips.
Protecting others when your child has COVID-19
Your state or territory health department website will tell you how to protect others from infection.
It's recommended that you and your child stay at home with no visitors until your child no longer has symptoms. It’s also recommended that your family takes other protective measures like wearing masks, improving airflow by keeping doors and windows open or using fans, and having good personal and home hygiene. Your health service will tell you what other household members need to do.
It’s natural to worry about what 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.
Most children fully recover from COVID-19, although it might take them several weeks to get over symptoms like cough or fatigue.
If your child has symptoms like extreme fatigue, difficulty breathing, pain, or problems with memory or concentration for more than 3 months, they might have long COVID. If this sounds like your child, take them to see your GP.
COVID-19 vaccination to protect against COVID-19
The best way to reduce your child’s risk of getting very sick from COVID-19 is to get your child vaccinated. In Australia, COVID-19 vaccination is recommended for some children from 6 months and all children from 5 years.
It’s best to speak with your GP or vaccination provider if:
- You have any concerns about COVID-19 vaccination.
- Your child has a medical condition, disability or a weak immune system.
These health professionals can address your concerns and talk with you about your child’s vaccination needs.
If your child is anxious about injections or has needle phobia, it can help to prepare your child for vaccination.
Vaccines are medicines that build your body’s immune system. They help to protect you and your family from infectious diseases. The vaccine development process is very thorough.
Personal hygiene to prevent the spread of COVID-19
Good personal hygiene can help to protect your child and family from COVID-19 and prevent its spread.
Hand-washing is a key part of good personal hygiene. It’s one of the simplest and best ways of preventing the spread of illness, including the spread of COVID-19.
When your child blows their nose, here’s what your child should do:
- Use disposable tissues.
- Put used tissues in a bin straight away.
- Carry a disposable bag for used tissues in case there are no bins.
- Wash their hands with soap or use hand sanitiser.
When your child sneezes or coughs, here’s what your child should do:
- Avoid sneezing or coughing into their hands.
- Use disposable tissues, or cover their mouth with a sleeve or elbow.
- Wash or sanitise 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.
And you can reduce your risk of getting COVID-19 by:
- staying at least 1.5 m away from anyone outside of your household
- avoiding close contact with anyone with the virus
- having gatherings outdoors where possible
- keeping doors and windows open or using fans to improve airflow if you have visitors in your home.
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.
Home hygiene to prevent the spread of COVID-19
To get rid of any germs that might have been brought into your house, use household detergent and water or disinfectant wipes to clean frequently touched surfaces in your home. This includes surfaces like benchtops and doorknobs.
Also remind your child to wash their hands when they get home.
Face masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19
If there’s community spread of COVID-19 in your local area, you and/or your child might be asked or required to wear a face mask, shield or covering. Note that face masks aren’t recommended for children under 2 years of age.
Check your state and territory health department website for advice on wearing face masks.