COVID-19 – what to tell children

With children having access to social media – where misinformation is rife – how can you communicate to them the vital importance of being vigilant during the current pandemic?

It may be proving very difficult to communicate the risks of COVID-19 to children – particularly when the risk to others is, generally, higher, and children are more likely to be carriers of the virus. Additionally, restricting them from doing simple, everyday things – like touching their faces, sneezing without a tissue to hand and not sharing drinks or snacks, as well as washing their hands more regularly – is a lot to ask from children and young people. However, this doesn’t mean it’s not important to inform them of what they need to know, without stirring panic, of course.

Discuss the risks with them

According to the American organisation, Centers for Disease Control (CDC), evidence shows that children are at no higher risks than adults; the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions – particularly affecting the respiratory system – are most at risk. However, while they may not get ill, or only experience very mild symptoms, children can easily be carriers,.

‘The symptoms of COVID-19 are similar in children and adults’, the CDC website says. ‘However, children with confirmed COVID-19 have generally presented with mild symptoms. Reported symptoms in children include cold-like symptoms, such as fever, runny nose, and cough. Vomiting and diarrhoea have also been reported. It’s not known yet whether some children may be at higher risk of severe illness – for example, children with underlying medical conditions and special healthcare needs. There is much more to be learned about how the disease impacts children’.

The risks to others

As a result, children are highly likely to be a risk to others as spreaders of the virus. COVID-19 mostly travels from host to host through cough droplets, meaning that children need to be taught to do the same things everybody else is doing, each day.

The precautions

The CDC website goes on to state, ‘You can encourage your child to help stop the spread of COVID-19 by teaching them to do the same things everyone should do to stay healthy.

  • Wash hands often using soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitiser.
  • Avoid people who are sick (coughing and sneezing).
  • Clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces daily in household common areas (e.g. tables, hard-backed chairs, doorknobs, light switches, remotes, handles, desks, toilets, sinks).
  • Launder items, including washable plush toys, as appropriate in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. If possible, launder items using the warmest appropriate water setting for the items and dry them completely. Dirty laundry from an ill person can be washed with other people’s items’.

Dispel some myths

Are the symptoms different for children?

They are mostly the same, although generally milder in children.

Should children wear masks?

No. Only people who have symptoms of illness, or who are providing care to those who are ill, should wear masks.

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