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    Community acquired pneumonia

    NB Cases of PIMS-TS - a novel post-infectious systemic hyperinflammatory syndrome - have been reported in children in Victoria. See alert

    Key Points

    1. Children appear to be less commonly and less severely affected by COVID-19 than adults
    2. Testing should be restricted to those who meet the current case definition* and those with severe disease requiring respiratory support
    3. Children with croup and/or suspected upper airway obstruction should not be swabbed until it is deemed safe to do so by a senior clinician
    4. The use of high-flow nasal oxygen and nebuliser therapy may aerosolise virus; use should be avoided if other options are effective
    5. Appropriate respiratory support should not be withheld. For children with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 requiring high-flow oxygen or nebulised therapy, airborne precautions (full PPE including N95 mask) must be maintained and management must occur in the highest level of isolation available. This should be discussed with a senior clinician and/or ICU. 

    *Case definitions may differ in each State: NSW Qld Vic


    • Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that cause respiratory infections, including the common cold and more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS)
    • The most recently discovered coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) causes coronavirus disease (COVID-19)


    Triage child to a single room, negative pressure if available


    The full clinical spectrum of disease remains uncertain – case definitions are changing frequently. Typical symptoms include:

    • Fever
    • Cough
    • Sore throat


    • Increased work of breathing/respiratory distress
    • Tachypnoea
    • Cyanosis

    Assessment of severity



    • Testing for coronavirus should be restricted to those who meet the current case definition including those with severe disease (*Case definitions may differ in each State: NSW Qld Vic)
    • For children with bronchiolitis, croup and pneumonia who don’t meet the case definition, testing should only be done for those with worsening disease who are likely to require escalation of respiratory support
    • PCR of oropharyngeal and deep nasal swab (using the same swab) see COVID-19 swabbing
    • For patients who fit the testing criteria and who require admission, follow local guidance for exclusion and de-isolation. Further testing can also be considered if a patient deteriorates and clinical suspicion of COVID-19 remains high
    • Children admitted to ICU should have a lower respiratory tract specimen collected
    • Chest x-ray is not routinely recommended and may be normal
    • CT has been used for diagnosis in adults; this is not recommended in children

    All confirmed cases must be notified to the relevant Health Department as listed in additional notes (will assist with admission decisions or HITH follow up)


    Mild to moderate disease should be managed as per clinical syndrome (See Bronchiolitis, Croup, Pneumonia)

    • Confirmed COVID-positive cases should be isolated
    • Airborne precautions (full PPE including N95 mask) should be observed for ALL HCWs
    • High-flow nasal oxygen therapy should be avoided if possible due to risk of aerosolisation – discuss with senior clinician and consider consultation with ICU
    • Nebulised adrenaline should be reserved for severe croup
    • Confirmed cases may not require admission if respiratory and hydration status are stable. Decision to admit should be supported by clinical assessment (including risk factors), social and geographical factors, and phase of illness
    • Consider Ambulatory/Hospital-in-the-Home (HITH) care if available

    Severe disease

    • Respiratory support as required
    • Airborne precautions (full PPE including N95 mask) must be maintained if child requires high-flow oxygen, non-invasive ventilation or nebulised therapy. Do not withhold these therapies if indicated
    • Management must occur in the highest level of isolation available
    • A number of antiviral and other medications have been suggested as possible treatments for severe COVID-19 - consult Infectious Diseases team
    • Consider using dexamethasone daily intravenously or orally for up to 10 days (or acceptable alternative regimen) in children with acute COVID-19 who are receiving oxygen (including mechanically ventilated patients)

    Home-ventilated patients on CPAP or BiPAP and those with tracheostomy (with or without ventilation) who have suspected viral respiratory tract infection should be tested for coronavirus, and managed with airborne precautions until confirmed to be negative

    There is currently no evidence that ibuprofen can make COVID-19 worse.  There is insufficient evidence for ceasing any existing medication, including NSAIDs, immunosuppressants, angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors and angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs)

    Airborne precautions should be maintained for children with respiratory illness requiring nitrous oxide for procedures; staff involved should use PPE

    Infection Control

    NB recommended sequence for donning and removing PPE may differ - follow local recommendations

    Written information 

    How to don and fit N95 masks
    How to don and remove PPE: NSW; Qld; Vic


    PPE for Contact/Droplet Precautions: NSW; Vic (video 1 below)
    PPE for Airborne Precautions: NSW; Vic (video 2 below)
    P2/N95 masks (video 3 below)

    NSW Clinical Excellence Commission videos

    Queensland Health PPE information

    NB Care must be taken when removing PPE as contamination may occur

    Consider consultation with local paediatric team when

    Suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19 requiring respiratory support – consider consultation with respiratory medicine and/or ICU

    Consider transfer when

    Confirmed case with severe or worsening moderate disease

    For emergency advice and paediatric or neonatal ICU transfers, see Retrieval Services.

    Consider discharge when

    All suspected or confirmed cases who do not require respiratory support. These cases must remain in home isolation as per local health department recommendations 

    Parent information

    Coronavirus and children in Australia
    Translated resources
    COVID-19 and immunosuppressed patients

    Additional notes

    Health Department resources
    NSW Health information
    Queensland Health information
    Victorian DHHS information

    Other resources
    Don’t Forget The Bubbles. An evidence summary of paediatric COVID-19 literature
    RCH COVID-19 information (intranet only)

    PPE for Droplet Precautions

    PPE for Airborne Precautions

    P2 and N95 masks

    Last updated December 2020

  • Reference List

    1. Brewster D et al. Consensus statement: Safe Airway Society principles of airway management and tracheal intubation specific to the COVID-19 adult patient group. Medical Journal of Australia. 2020 Retrieved from URL
    2. Cai J et al. A Case Series of children with 2019 novel coronavirus infection: clinical and epidemiological features. Clinical Infectious Diseases. 2020. Retrieved from URL
    3. Dong Y et al. Epidemiological Characteristics of 2143 Pediatric Patients With 2019 Coronavirus Disease in China. Pediatrics. 2020. Retrieved from URL
    4. Lu et al. SARS-CoV-2 Infection in Children. The New England Journal of Medicine. 2020. Retrieved from URL
    5. Zimmermann P et al. Coronavirus Infections in Children Including COVID-19. Pediatric Infectious Diseases Journal. 2020. Retrieved from URL