I hate to break it to you but, EVERYBODY has COVID-19 and who doesn’t, likely will very soon. This appears to be the pandemic that won’t quit and, as expected, after holiday gatherings, COVID-19 numbers around the world are growing by leaps and bounds. While we are reassured by the fact that infections in this wave appear to follow a milder, clinical course, than in previous ones, parents are no less worried when their little ones test positive for COVID-19. Here are answers to the questions I’ve been most frequently asked over the past two weeks:
What are the signs and symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19)?
Surprisingly, many children who are testing positive for COVID-19 are still asymptomatic and were only found to be positive after testing for holiday travel or after exposure at holiday gatherings. They should be observed for symptoms and parents should remember that COVID-19 can cause a range of symptoms in children.
The most common are fever, cough, runny nose, and sore throat. Some children with a history of reactive airway disease may have trouble breathing. Others develop gastrointestinal problems like belly ache, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Other complaints observed during this wave include headaches, muscle aches, and loss of taste and smell.
What should I do if my child has symptoms?
The most important thing is to not panic. Call your doctor if your child has a fever, cough, trouble breathing, sore throat, belly pain, vomiting, diarrhea, rash, dizziness, or just doesn’t feel well. If your child has been near someone with coronavirus, or been in an area where lots of people have it, tell the doctor. Talk about whether your child needs a test for coronavirus. The doctor can decide whether your child can be treated at home, should come in for a visit, or can have a video or telehealth visit. If your pediatrician thinks your child needs care right away, they will guide you on where to go.
Always call before bringing your symptomatic child to the pediatrician’s office, as special accommodations need to be made ahead of time for testing and isolation, so as not to put vulnerable babies at risk.
How do I know if my child needs to go to the ER?
Your pediatrician can guide you, based on the severity of your child’s symptoms, but head to the ER if your child:
• Looks very sick to you.
• Has difficulty breathing. Look for muscles pulling in between the ribs or the nostrils puffing out with each breath.
• Is confused or very sleepy.
• Complains of chest pain.
• Has cold, sweaty, pale or blotchy skin.
• Is dizzy.
• Has very bad belly pain.
How can I keep my
family safe if my child
Keep your family at home until you talk to your doctor. If your child’s symptoms could be COVID-19, everyone in the household should stay at home until testing is done or symptoms are gone. Anyone in the house with COVID-19 should be kept away from pets and non-infected members of the household until they are symptom-free. Try to have only one person care for the sick child, so others are not exposed.
If your child is over two years old and can wear a mask without finding it hard to breathe, have them wear one when the caregiver is in the room. Don’t leave your child alone while they’re wearing a mask. The caregiver should also wear a mask when in the same room.
If possible, have your sick child use a different bathroom from others. If that isn’t possible, sanitize the bathroom with disinfectant wipes often.
Everyone in your family should wash their hands well and often. Use regular household cleaners or wipes to clean things that get touched a lot (e.g. doorknobs, light switches, toys, remote controls, phones, etc.). Do this every day – several times a day.
How do I treat
Most children develop a mild illness and don’t need any treatment beyond supportive care. Fevers last anywhere from three to five days and can be managed with acetaminophen or ibuprofen on a schedule. Body aches and sore throats can be managed with the same. Runny noses and nasal congestion can be managed with over-the-counter antihistamines and decongestants. Contact your pediatrician for guidance on appropriate medications and dosing.
Your child’s appetite may not be the greatest while they’re unwell but do not panic. Aim to keep them well hydrated with electrolyte-rich fluids. Their appetite will return once they are feeling better.
Unfortunately, we’ve found ourselves braving yet another wave of this pandemic. Cases are rising and will continue to rise over the next few weeks. The good news is that cases seem to be following a milder clinical course than previous waves. If you suspect, or have confirmed, that your child is positive for COVID-19, do not panic. Reach out to your pediatrician for guidance. Remember, we’re here to help you raise happy and healthy kids!
• Dr. Tamarra Moss is a pediatrician committed to helping you raise happy and healthy kids. You can find her at Dr. Carlos Thomas & Pediatric Associates in New Providence, Lucayan Medical Center in Grand Bahama, or on Instagram @mykidsdoc242.