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Mother measuring temperature of her sick daughter with thermometer.

Your Child Tested Positive for COVID-19. Now What?

Author: CHKD Medical Group, Dr. Theresa Broderick
Published Date: Monday, February 1, 2021

By Dr. Theresa Broderick, Hampton Roads Pediatrics

When COVID-19 cases increased after the winter holidays, more children were diagnosed with the disease. Some get tested after showing symptoms while others seek testing because they have been exposed to the virus.

The rates of children testing positive in January were some of the highest we have seen since the beginning of the pandemic.

The illness is milder in children than adults, but in rare cases can be severe.

So how should you care for your child with COVID-19?

Children who are mildly ill with COVID-19 should isolate at home during their illness.

Separate the child with COVID-19 from others who don’t have the disease as much as possible. They should use a separate bedroom and bathroom, if available. They shouldn’t go out in public. Also, avoid having any unnecessary visitors, especially people who may be at higher risk for severe illness.

Some children don’t have any symptoms. Others may have mild to moderate symptoms.

Children who are sick should wear a mask when they are around other people at home. Children under age 2 should not wear a mask. This advice also applies to children who have trouble breathing or are not able to remove a face covering without help.

As a caregiver, make sure you wear a mask before entering a sick child’s room. Wear disposable gloves when you wash their dishes, touch their laundry, or disinfect any surfaces they may have touched.

Monitor the child’s symptoms, which can include the following:

  • Fever or chills.
  • Coughing.
  • Trouble breathing.
  • Sore throat.
  • Stuffy or runny nose.
  • Headache or body aches.
  • Tiredness (fatigue).
  • Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or belly (abdominal) pain.
  • New loss of taste or sense of smell.

The goal should be to improve their overall comfort:

  • Encourage your child to rest.
  • Make sure your child is well hydrated.
  • Reduce pain and fever with an over-the-counter medication.

In rare instances, the disease can escalate to a point of needing treatment.

Some children develop severe complications, like pneumonia. There have also been reports of children developing a condition called multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C).

MIS-C seems to be similar to Kawasaki disease, a rare condition causing inflammation of blood vessels and body organs.

Here are warning signs to watch for, and call your pediatrician for advice:

  • Fever (100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or higher) lasting 24 hours or more.
  • Abdominal pain, diarrhea, or vomiting.
  • Neck pain.
  • Rash or changes in skin color.
  • Bloodshot eyes.
  • Appearing extra tired.
  • Trouble breathing.
  • Pain or pressure in the chest that doesn't go away.
  • Becoming confused.
  • Unable to wake up or stay awake.
  • Bluish tint to lips or face.

The American Academy of Pediatrics encourages parents and others to talk to children about the virus in a way they can understand. Filter information to make sure it is age-appropriate. These tips can help:

  • Simple reassurance. Remind children that researchers and doctors are learning as much as they can, as quickly as they can, about the virus and are taking steps to keep everyone safe.
  • Give them control. It's also a great time to remind children of what they can do to help – washing their hands often, coughing into a tissue or their sleeves, and getting enough sleep.
  • Watch for signs of anxiety. Children may not have the words to express their worry, but you may see signs of it. They may get cranky, be more clingy, have trouble sleeping, or seem distracted. Keep the reassurance going and try to stick to your normal routines.
  • Monitor their media. Keep young children away from frightening images they may see on TV, social media, computers, etc. For older children, talk together about what they are hearing on the news and correct any misinformation or rumors you may hear.

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About CHKD Medical Group

About CHKD Medical  Group Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters has been the region’s most trusted name in pediatric care for more than 50 years. As members of CHKD Health System, our pediatricians work closely with CHKD’s full range of pediatric specialists and surgeons. They also share a commitment to quality, excellence and child-centered care. With 18 practices in 29 locations throughout the region, a CHKD pediatrician is never far.