Children and COVID-19

How to take care of a child ill with COVID-19 at home?

11 July 2021

Majority of children with COVID-19 infection may not exhibit any symptoms or be mildly symptomatic. A small proportion of symptomatic children may need hospitalization and some symptomatic children may have severe illness requiring intensive care.

Asymptomatic children are usually identified when their family members test positive for COVID-19 resulting in testing of the entire family. Such children do not require any treatment except monitoring for development of symptoms and subsequent treatment according to assessed severity under the guidance of a doctor while in home isolation. 

Mildly symptomatic children may have fever, cough, shortness of breath, fatigue, muscle pain, runny nose, sore throat, diarrhea, loss of smell, loss of taste, etc. These children can also be managed at home with home isolation and symptomatic treatment under the guidance of a doctor.

A new syndrome called multisystem inflammatory syndrome has also been seen in some children, who experience inflammation of some organs and tissues — such as the heart, lungs, blood vessels, kidneys, digestive system, brain, skin or eyes. Symptoms include: fever that lasts 24 hours or longer, vomiting, diarrhea, pain in the stomach, skin rash, feeling unusually tired, fast heartbeat, rapid breathing, red eyes, redness or swelling of the lips and tongue, redness or swelling of the hands or feet, headache, dizziness or lightheadedness, enlarged lymph nodes, etc.

Children with underlying condition including congenital heart disease, chronic lung diseases, chronic organ dysfunction, obesity may also be managed at home, if they have features of mild disease and there is easy access to health facility in case of any deterioration. In case there is lack of proper arrangement to manage these children at home and access to health facility is difficult, such children may be admitted to hospital.

This image shows a little girl at home sick with fever
UNICEF Nepal/2021/PShrestha

If you are taking care of child ill with COVID-19,

🍎 Ensure the ill child rests, drinks plenty of fluids and eats nutritious food.

😷 Wear a medical mask when in the same room with the ill child. Do not touch the mask or face during use and discard it afterward. If your child is above the age of five, have him/her also wear a mask when you are around.

💦Frequently clean hands with soap and water or alcohol-based rub, especially:

  • After any type of contact with the ill child or their surroundings
  • Before, during and after preparing food
  • Before eating
  • ​​​​​​After using the toilet

🥄Use dedicated dishes, cups, eating utensils, towels and bedlinens for the ill child. Wash dishes, cups, eating utensils, towels, or bedliners used the ill child with soap and water.

🧼 Identify frequently touched surfaces by the ill child and clean and disinfect them daily.

☎️ Call your health care facility immediately if the ill child worsens or experiences difficulty breathing.

Here are some additional tips for parents and caregivers taking care of a child ill with COVID-19:

  • Talk about COVID-19. Your child will already have heard something. Silence and secrets do not protect your children. Honesty and openness do. You know your children best. So, think about how much they will understand.
  • Be supportive. Your child may be scared or confused. Give them space to share how they are feeling and let them know you are there for them.
  • Explain to your children that they have an important job of keeping the rest of the family safe by temporarily physically distancing from others.
  • Encourage children to think of fun activities that they can do by themselves to exercise while in isolation. Jumping activities, dancing or running in circles can be fun!
this image shows parents playing with a child
UNICEF Nepal/2021/PShrestha
  • Reinforce strengths with praise and stimulate their abilities rather than highlight the things that they cannot do while in isolation.
  • Only help children when they need it. Too much support denies them the chance to become independent and can feel patronizing.
  • Routines help children feel secure and safe. Create a daily routine with activities that are familiar and enjoyable to your child.
  • Help your child stay connected to friends and family members via phone calls or online chats.
  • Provide your child with choices so that they have a sense of control.