COVID-19: Children and Familes

Children may have mild symptoms


According to the CDC, pediatric patients with COVID-19 may experience the following signs or symptoms over the course of the disease:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Nasal congestion or rhinorrhea
  • Sore throat
  • Shortness of breath
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Myalgia
  • Poor feeding or poor appetite
Child Playing Basketball CDC

The predominant signs and symptoms of COVID-19 reported to date among all patients are similar to other viral respiratory infections, including fever, cough, and shortness of breath. Although these signs and symptoms may occur at any time during the overall disease course, children with COVID-19 may not initially present with fever and cough as often as adult patients.

The symptoms of COVID-19 are similar in children and adults. However, children with confirmed COVID-19 have generally shown mild symptoms. For many people, being sick with COVID-19 would be a little bit like having the flu. People can get a fever, cough, or have a hard time taking deep breaths. 

It’s not known yet whether some children may be at higher risk for severe illness, for example, children with underlying medical conditions and special healthcare needs. There is more to learn about how the disease impacts children. You can learn more about who is most at risk for health problems if they have COVID-19 infection on Are You at Higher Risk for Severe Illness.

Child Planting

Help stop the spread of COVID-19:

Take steps to protect children and others from getting sick

Help stop the spread of COVID-19 by doing the same things everyone should do to stay healthy. Teach your children to do the same.

  • Clean hands often. Make sure children practice everyday preventive behaviors, such as washing their hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. This is especially important if you have been in a public place.
  • Avoid people who are sick (coughing and sneezing).
  • Children 2 years and older should wear a cloth face covering over their nose and mouth when in public settings where it’s difficult to practice social distancing. This is an additional public health measure people should take to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in addition to (not instead of) the other everyday preventive actions listed above.
  • Clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces daily in household common areas (like tables, hard-backed chairs, doorknobs, light switches, remotes, handles, desks, toilets, and sinks).
  • Launder items including washable plush toys as needed. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions. If possible, launder items using the warmest appropriate water setting  and dry items completely. Dirty laundry from an ill person can be washed with other people’s items.

Limit time with other children

Practice social distancing: The key to slowing the spread of COVID-19 is to limit contact as much as possible. If children are playing outside their own homes, it is essential that they remain 6 feet from anyone who is not in their own household. To help children maintain social connections while social distancing, help your children have supervised phone calls or video chats with their friends.

If children meet in groups, it can put everyone at risk. Children with COVID-19 may only have mild symptoms or have no symptoms, but they can still pass this virus onto others who may be at higher risk, including older adults and people who have serious underlying medical conditions.

Reconsider travel plans

Reconsider travel plans if they included non-essential travel.

Limit time with older adults and people with serious underlying medical conditions

Older adults and people who have serious underlying medical conditions are at highest risk of severe illness from COVID-19.

  • If others in your home are at particularly high risk for severe illness from COVID-19, consider extra precautions to separate your child from those people.
  • If you are unable to stay home with your child while school is out, carefully consider who might be best positioned to provide child care. If someone at higher risk for COVID-19 will be providing care (older adult, such as a grandparent or someone with a chronic medical condition), limit your children’s contact with other people.
  • Consider postponing visits or trips to see older family members and grandparents. Connect virtually or by writing letters.

You can find additional information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on preventing COVID-19 at How to Protect Yourself and at Preventing COVID-19 Spread in Communities. Additional information on how COVID-19 is spread is available at How COVID-19 Spreads.

Keep children healthy

Watch your child for any signs of illness

  • If you see any sign of illness consistent with symptoms of COVID-19, particularly fever, cough, or shortness of breath, call your healthcare provider and keep your child at home and away from others as much as possible. Follow guidance on what to do if you are sick.

Watch for signs of stress in your child

  • Some common changes to watch for include excessive worry or sadness, unhealthy eating or sleeping habits, and difficulty with attention and concentration. For more information, see the “For Parents” section of CDC’s Stress and Coping.
  • Take time to talk with your child or teen about the COVID-19 outbreak. Answer questions and share facts about COVID-19 in a way that your child or teen can understand.
  • Go to CDC’s Helping Children Cope with Emergencies or Talking with Children About COVID-19 for more information.

Teach and reinforce everyday preventive actions

  • Parents and caretakers play an important role in teaching children to wash their hands. Explain that hand washing can keep them healthy and stop the virus from spreading to others.
  • Be a good role model—if you wash your hands often, they’re more likely to do the same.
  • Make handwashing a family activity.
  • Learn more about handwashing and other everyday preventive actions.

Help your child stay active

  • Encourage your child to play outdoors—it’s great for physical and mental health. Take a walk with your child or go on a bike ride.
  • Use indoor activity breaks (like stretch breaks or dance breaks) throughout the day to help your child stay healthy and focused.

Help your child stay socially connected

Help children continue learning

Stay in touch with your child’s school