Coronavirus (COVID-19)

What to Know about Kids and COVID-19

Michael Koster, MD
Infectious diseases specialist Michael Koster, MD

Michael Koster, MD, an infectious diseases specialist at Hasbro Children's Hospital, explains how COVID-19 specifically affects the young.

What is coronavirus?

By now, we know that COVID-19 is a respiratory illness that can spread from person to person. Although it appears that children are contracting a milder version of the disease, it’s natural for parents to have worries over the health and well-being of their children. 

As the situation continues to evolve, and experts continue to learn more about the disease, concerns over the virus may be weighing on parents’ and guardians’ minds. However, there are certain symptoms and warning signs parents should look for if their child isn’t feeling well. 

What symptoms should parents look for if their child isn’t feeling well?

Unlike adults, most children have experienced milder versions of the virus. Dr. Koster breaks down what parents should look for if their child isn’t feeling well:

  • Fever (100.4 degrees)
  • Cough
  • Sore throat 
  • Runny nose

Additionally, if a child has any of the above symptoms coupled with difficulty breathing, parents should not hesitate contacting their doctor to determine what next steps should be taken. 

"In pediatrics, we always say fever's your friend. It's helping you fight infection, so if you have a low-grade temperature it's actually your body fighting the infection. It's only when you're uncomfortable, and that's generally when temperature tends to rise above 102, that you should be taking medication to reduce your fever and that's really specifically for your comfort," says Dr. Koster. 

What disease is more concerning, the flu or COVID-19?

Although symptoms may be similar, the coronavirus is not the same as the seasonal flu. The primary difference between COVID-19 and the seasonal flu is contagiousness. Experts estimate that each person who suffers from COVID-19 infects two to three others. Moreover, the reproduction rate is twice as high as the seasonal flu.

Additionally, humans have lived with influenza for more than 100 years. Despite presenting with many of the same physical symptoms, the number one difference is the lack of vaccine or any kind of treatment that has been consistently effective.

While many people have a built up immunity to seasonal flu strains, COVID-19 is a new virus that no one has immunity to. However, there are obvious reasons to compare the flu and coronavirus. Both are  more likely to cause serious illness in people over age 65. 

How does coronavirus spread?

As safety protocols continue to evolve and expand, children should join the fight to keep everyone safe by following the same rules as adults:

  • Wash hands often using soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer
  • Avoid people who are sick
  • Practice social distancing
  • Clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces daily 

How do you talk to kids about coronavirus?

With coronavirus (COVID-19) in the news every day, it’s natural for children and adolescents to experience some fear and anxiety. As everyone continues to adjust to new safety protocols, it’s important for caregivers to reassure children that they are safe, and that some uncertainty is normal.  

By having honest and age-appropriate conversations about the facts, your voice will be a trusted support.

Bradley Hospital has more tips and advice to help parents and guardians speak to children about COVID-19.