JOHNS HOPKINS MEDICINE
As more becomes known about the coronavirus, here is what parents and guardians need to know about it and COVID-19 in babies and children.
Aaron Milstone, M.D., M.H.S., a pediatrician at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center and an infectious disease expert at The Johns Hopkins Hospital, talks about COVID-19 symptoms in children, how to keep babies and kids safe, the risk infected children may pose to others, and an overview of MIS-C, a rare condition that may be related to exposure to the virus.
Can children and toddlers get coronavirus?
Yes, children and toddlers can get COVID-19. Cases have been increasing among children, indicated by recent data from the American Academy of Pediatrics This may be partly because no COVID-19 vaccine has been authorized for people under age 12. The widespread circulation in the U.S. of the highly contagious delta variant of the coronavirus is another factor.
In most cases, COVID-19 may be milder in young children than in adults, but parents and caregivers should understand that children can be infected with the coronavirus, can develop complications requiring hospitalization, and can transmit the virus to others.
In rare cases, children infected with the coronavirus can develop a serious lung infection and become very sick with COVID-19, and deaths have occurred. That’s why it is important to use precautions and prevent infection in children as well as adults.
What should parents know about coronavirus variants and children?
Coronavirus variants, including the very contagious delta variant, continue to spread, particularly in areas with low rates of community COVID-19 vaccination.
For children too young to be vaccinated (and adults who have not received coronavirus vaccines) it is important to follow proven COVID-19 precautions such as mask wearing when in public, indoor places to reduce the chance of becoming infected with the coronavirus.
“Indoor activities are riskier than outdoor activities, but risk can be reduced by masking, distancing, hand washing, and improved ventilation,” Milstone says.
Can newborns and babies get COVID-19?
It appears that women infected with the coronavirus can, in very rare cases, pass the disease to her baby. Infants can also become infected shortly after being born. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), most newborns who test positive for the coronavirus have mild symptoms or none at all, and recover, but serious cases have occurred. Pregnant women should take extra precautions, including talking to your doctor about getting a COVID-19 vaccine, to avoid the coronavirus.
What are coronavirus symptoms in babies and children?
Generally, COVID-19 symptoms are milder in children than in adults, and some infected children may not have any signs of being sick at all.
Symptoms for children and adults include:
- Fever or chills
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Muscle or body aches
- Sore throat
- New loss of taste or smell
- New fatigue
- Nausea or vomiting
- Congestion or runny nose
Fever and cough are common COVID-19 symptoms in both adults and children; shortness of breath is more likely to be seen in adults. Children can have pneumonia, with or without obvious symptoms. They can also experience sore throat, excessive fatigue or diarrhea.
However, serious illness in children with COVID-19 is possible, and parents should stay alert if their child is diagnosed with, or shows signs of, the disease.
Children with COVID-19: When to Call 911
Parents or guardians should immediately seek urgent or emergency medical care if they notice these warning signs in a child:
- Difficulty breathing or catching his or her breath
- Inability to keep down any liquids
- New confusion or inability to awaken
- Bluish lips