Although children can catch coronavirus, according to the NHS, it tends to be less often than adults and less of a serious health concern for them.
At the beginning of the pandemic, not much was known about the coronavirus, but it was confidently reported that when kids were showing symptoms, it was having less of a detrimental affect on their health.
This is perhaps one of the reassuring factors that has led government ministers to allow schools to reopen from June 1. However, it’s natural for parents to be worried about exposing their children to the virus now that some pupils have returned to class, as many still wonder how social distancing in schools will work effectively.
As such, and because we are quickly approaching flu season as well, it’s now more important than ever that we are vigilant about noticing the tell-tale signs of coronavirus in our kids.
However, there does not appear to be much cause to worry unduly about your child catching coronavirus, or suffering seriously with it. Professor Sir David Spiegelhalter from the University of Cambridge explained to Channel 4 this month that children have a one in 5.3 million chance of experiencing serious, deadly effects of the virus. This means that while for kids, symptoms of Covid are unpleasant the disease is very unlikely to have long-term effect on them physically.
But as society begins to open up again with the most recent announcement by Boris Johnson, it’s important to know the symptoms of Covid 19 in kids to avoid them potentially passing the virus onto someone else.
What are the Covid symptoms in kids?
The symptoms of Covid in kids are much the same as in adults.
As worrying as the virus is, these signs are notably many of the symptoms of less serious illnesses or conditions like the flu or a cold. And sometimes it’s hard to know the difference between coronavirus symptoms and hay fever. So it’s important to be aware of exactly when you should seek medical help.
Symptoms of Covid in kids include:
- A high temperature
- A new, continuous cough
- A loss or change to sense of smell or taste
The NHS advises that you should seek medical help via the 111 service (for children over 5 years old) or contact your GP surgery if your child:
- Is under three months old and has a temperature of 38C or higher
- Is three to six months old and has a temperature of 39C or higher
- Has other signs of illness like a rash, as well as a high temperature
- Has a high temperature that’s lasted for 5 days or more
- Does not want to eat, or is not their usual self and you are worried
- Has a high temperature that does not come down with paracetamol
- Is dehydrated (i.e. nappies are not very wet, they have sunken eyes and don’t cry tears)
While these aren’t necessarily the symptoms of Covid, they are similar to the ones that children show when they have the virus.
According to the NHS, if your child has any of the following more serious symptoms, you should call 999 immediately for medical help:
- Has a stiff neck
- They have a rash that does not fade when you press a glass against it
- Is bothered by light
- Has a seizure or fit for the first time (they cannot stop shaking)
- They have unusually cold hands and feet
- Has pale, blotchy, blue or grey skin
- Has a weak, high-pitched cry that’s not like their usual cry
- Is drowsy and hard to wake
- Is extremely agitated (does not stop crying) or is confused
- Finds it hard to breathe and sucks their stomach in under their ribs
- Has a soft spot on their head that curves outwards
- Is not responding like they usually do, or not interested in feeding or usual activities
The above symptoms are not necessarily symptoms of coronavirus.
It’s also very important to seek immediate medical help even if you don’t suspect them to have Covid, as the above symptoms are indicative of other serious childhood illnesses like meningitis.
What about the rash associated with coronavirus in kids?
At the beginning of the outbreak, medical professionals issued an urgent alert about a supposedly coronavirus-related condition, due to a rash that had appeared on some children who had been diagnosed with the virus.
Some believe this rash is a symptom of a worrying inflammatory syndrome, similar to Kawasaki disease which affects 8 in 10,000 children every year, but not with entirely similar symptoms.
Experts believe that the inflammatory disease is likely a reaction of the body to either a current or past coronavirus infection but they are not entirely sure, as many of those children who contracted the infection later tested negative for Covid despite having symptoms.
While this inflammatory disease is notably rare with 100 cases in 12.7 million children, it is serious and the rash could be a symptom of the condition. Other things to look out for, indicating that the rash is a symptom of the inflammatory disease include a prolonged fever, conjunctivitis, stomach ache, vomiting and/or diarrhoea, swollen or enlarged lymph nodes, swollen hands and/or feet and an unusual sleepiness.
Speaking to Channel 4 News, Dr Liz Whittaker from the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health said, “We would encourage any parent who’s worried about their child to take them to either their GP or to A&E if they’re worried, because it’s more likely they’re unwell with another condition, rather than this inflammatory condition.”
It has since been reported that a rash could be more related to coronavirus than previously thought, with some researchers arguing that it could be a “key diagnostic sign” of Covid-19.
Researchers from the Covid Symptom Study surveyed 12,000 people who had skin rashes as well as suspected symptoms of coronavirus. They found that eight per cent of people who tested positive for the virus in the study also had some form of rash, with one in five people reporting that the rash was the first symptom of the virus they had. Almost a quarter also said that the rash was the only symptom they had.
So while the NHS currently still lists the three major symptoms as ones to look out for, it’s important to consider any abnormal rashes in children as potentially symptoms of Covid-19.
If you suspect that your child may have symptoms of Covid 19, it’s essential that you follow government and NHS advice on self-isolating, washing your hands and seeking medical help.