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Coronavirus COVID-19

  • If you are concerned your child has COVID-19 please call the dedicated hotline on 1800 675 398 or visit dhhs.vic.gov.au/coronavirus for more information.

    COVID-19 is a viral infection caused by a type of coronavirus called SARS-CoV-2. Most children who get COVID-19 have a mild infection that resembles a common cold or flu. Symptoms usually last between two to seven days. Children may also show no signs or symptoms (asymptomatic infection). Children with obesity, chronic heart, lung or neurological problems may become more unwell from COVID-19. COVID-19 can be a serious illness for older people, however in children, the infection is usually mild, and the need to stay in hospital is rare.

    Signs and symptoms of COVID-19

    Your child may have symptoms of COVID-19. These symptoms are like ones present in other respiratory viruses, such as the flu. They are:

    • Fever
    • Runny nose
    • Cough
    • Sore throat
    • Fatigue
    • Headache
    • Irritability
    • Loss of appetite
    • Breathing difficulties
    • Vomiting, diarrhoea 
    • Poor oral intake and dehydration 

    When to see a doctor

    If your child is experiencing any of the symptoms above, here’s what to do:

    1. If your child has mild symptoms, get tested and wait at home until you receive the test result.
    2. Contact your GP or seek medical care if there is worsening of symptoms or if you are concerned.
    3. You can contact the Coronavirus Health Information Line on 1800 020 080 or Healthdirect on 1800 022 222 for more information about COVID-19.
    4. If your child is very unwell, you can call an ambulance or take them to hospital at any time, and you do not need to ring ahead, although it is preferable to do so. 

    When to see a doctor more urgently. Your child may be:

    • Working hard to breathe, with fast breathing or long pauses in between breaths.
    • Very sleepy, difficult to wake or confused.
    • Signs of dehydration.
    • Severe chest or abdominal pain that doesn’t go away after pain relief. 
    • Persistent dizziness or headache.
    • Persistent fever lasting more than five days, or a fever in a baby under three months of age.
    • Pain/swelling in the legs. 

    Treatment

    There is no specific treatment for COVID-19 for both mild and asymptomatic infections. If your child is diagnosed with COVID-19 and is uncomfortable, you may treat them as you would with any cold or flu. This might include:

    • Encouraging fluids and rest.
    • Infants may need to feed smaller amounts, more frequently.
    • Paracetamol and/or Ibuprofen.
    • Saline drops for a blocked nose.

    Fever with COVID-19

    Experiencing a fever is common and expected with most viral illnesses. If your child is happy and comfortable, their fever does not need any specific treatment. If your child is irritable or appears uncomfortable, paracetamol and ibuprofen can be used. Ibuprofen is best taken with food and no more than three times a day. Paracetamol can be taken on an empty stomach up to four times a day. You can use both at the same time or alternate between the two to allow more frequent dosing if needed.

    Care at home

    It is common for COVID-19 to spread in a household.

    Good personal hygiene and physical distancing helps to protect your child from COVID-19 and reduce its spread. Hand washing is a key part of good personal hygiene. It’s one of the simplest and best ways to prevent the spread of illness, including the spread of COVID-19.

    When your child sneezes, coughs or 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 your child's hands with soap or alcohol hand gel after blowing.  

    Follow-up

    Follow up is not routinely required. If your child has prolonged symptoms (more than 14 days), or develops new symptoms after recovering from COVID-19, please see your GP for further assessment.

    Complications following COVID-19

    Rare complications can occur following COVID-19 infection in children and adolescents:

    • Paediatric Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome (PIMS-TS): This appears as a new illness, two to six weeks after having COVID-19. Symptoms include feeling unwell, rash, abdominal pain or fever. Other symptoms include red eyes (conjunctivitis), lips, hands, feet or swollen neck glands. 
    • Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT): Swelling, pain or discoloration of the calf muscle or leg.

    If your child has these signs, you should see a doctor immediately. 

    Isolation

    If your child tests positive for COVID-19, they need to isolate at home with all household members until you receive advice from the Victorian Department of Health. You can still take your child to hospital or call an ambulance while they have COVID-19. Please visit the Department of Health website for a helpful list of what to expect for isolation periods.

    Tips for isolating 

    • Maintain a daily routine as much as possible, especially with sleep and mealtimes.
    • Ensure your child has some daily physical activity.
    • Encourage your child to talk about COVID-19 and how they are feeling.
    • Provide your child with reassurance and make time for fun activities.
    • Keep in touch with family and friends.
    • Food, supplies and medicines may be available through home delivery.

    More tips can be found here

    Key points to remember

    • COVID-19 causes mostly mild cold and flu like symptoms in children.
    • If your child has symptoms, get tested and wait at home until you receive the test result and then follow the advice given. 
    • Contact your doctor or seek medical care at a hospital if your child experiences worsening of symptoms and if you are increasingly concerned.
    • Good hygiene, physical distancing and face masks can help to protect your family from COVID-19.
    • Talk with your children about COVID-19 to help them understand what’s going on.
    • Keep your child out of child care when they have any viral symptoms to avoid passing on the same symptoms to other children, even if it is not COVID-19. 
    • Get your information about COVID-19 from reliable sources like government websites and RCH Kids Health Info fact sheets and podcasts.
    • For parents, it's important to remember that looking after your own health is important in order to care for your child. Don’t hesitate to seek medical care for yourself if needed. Support and care is available for children whose parents are too unwell to care for them. Please contact the Coronavirus Health Information Line on 1800 020 080 or call 000 if needed.

    For more information


    Developed by The Royal Children's Hospital General Medicine and Hospital In The Home departments. We acknowledge the input of RCH consumers and carers.

    Reviewed October 2021

    Kids Health Info is supported by The Royal Children’s Hospital Foundation. To donate, visit www.rchfoundation.org.au.


Disclaimer  

This information is intended to support, not replace, discussion with your doctor or healthcare professionals. The authors of these consumer health information handouts have made a considerable effort to ensure the information is accurate, up to date and easy to understand. The Royal Children's Hospital Melbourne accepts no responsibility for any inaccuracies, information perceived as misleading, or the success of any treatment regimen detailed in these handouts. Information contained in the handouts is updated regularly and therefore you should always check you are referring to the most recent version of the handout. The onus is on you, the user, to ensure that you have downloaded the most up-to-date version of a consumer health information handout.