COVID-19 is a viral respiratory infection that was first discovered in China late 2019. With news quickly spreading about the virus around the world, no one was sure what to expect. It soon became a global pandemic that shook everyone’s world in unexpected and stressful ways. Now, over two years later, there’s still more we’re learning about COVID and how it affects people.
But we’re equipped with much more knowledge due to groundbreaking research that’s been happening throughout the past two years. It’s research that’s allowed for the development of a vaccine and guided safety procedures recommended by the CDC, such as social distancing and the use of a mask. With the use of science and responsible precautions, the world has started to feel a little more normal.
Of course, that doesn’t completely eliminate the worries and anxiety you may have when it comes to your children. With new variants spreading, it’s difficult to know how best to care for the health and safety of your family. Are toddlers susceptible to the disease? Are they more likely to transmit it to others? There are a lot of medical questions you may have. While this article can’t replace official guidance from your caregiver, we can offer the latest research on the likelihood of your toddler catching COVID-19, what symptoms to look out for, and what you should do if you suspect your child has COVID.
Let’s get to it!
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Can your toddler catch COVID
Unfortunately, parents, a child of any age can catch the dreaded respiratory virus. On the one hand, research does show that the risk grows as they do in age, meaning younger children and babies seem less vulnerable to catching COVID, while older adolescents and teenagers see an increase in positive tests.
In a European study, researchers analyzed a pool of tests across children and adults. When compared, the vast majority of positive tests were present in adults. Out of the over 500,000 tests done, a little over 120,000 were positive. Of those positive cases, children under 16 only made up 1.1%, or around 1,400. And in other good news, the study out of England didn’t show any reason to believe those positive cases were more severe or likely to cause serious negative outcomes, like hospitalization or death.
So, while the fear of your child and household coming down with COVID is understandable, it should be stated that the research done so far doesn’t seem to indicate there’s any greater risks in play for healthy toddlers if they did catch the virus. If you’re worried about COVID-19, or have a baby or toddler who is more fragile and navigating other health concerns, we recommend continuing to take precautions. Like using a mask in public, frequent hand washing, and in some cases, continuing to have limited contact or interactions with large groups of people. It’s important you feel comfortable and take steps to prevent exposure to COVID.
Signs and symptoms of COVID-19 in children
The most prevalent and apparent signs of covid in children are fever and cough. Other common symptoms kids experience include fatigue, muscle aches, headache, sore throat, swollen lymph nodes, a runny nose, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Telltale signs of a potential positive case before being confirmed by a lab test are loss of taste and smell, which are trademark symptoms of the COVID-19 virus. It’s similar to symptoms an adult experiences, however, children are also much more likely to experience asymptomatic cases, meaning visible signs of illness aren’t present.
Signs of a severe illness that require immediate action include inability to keep down food or fluids for an extended period of time, difficulty breathing, blue or pale lips, and blue-colored skin. There are lung and breathing complications that can be caused by the virus. So, if any of these symptoms are present, seek emergency help for immediate treatment.
What to do if your child shows COVID-like symptoms
If you suspect your toddler has COVID and is displaying flu-like symptoms, it’s best to talk to or call a healthcare provider or expert. While you shouldn’t panic any time your child sneezes, if there are symptoms like fever or coughing present, a test should be taken. A rapid test works in a pinch, but a PCR test is most accurate. Going to the doctor also offers the opportunity for other illnesses to be ruled out or diagnosed too, such as the flu or strep. Until conclusive test results come back, it’s recommended by the CDC that you quarantine until you receive a negative test.
However, if the test comes back positive, the current guidelines and advice from the CDC say to isolate at least five days after receiving the positive test result to prevent further community transmission – also known as spreading it to others in your circle – and protect those who are vulnerable while you or your child are contagious. Your doctor will let you know if there’s been an update from the CDC on guidelines and be able to offer recommendations for medication that can ease the discomfort of COVID symptoms.
While navigating the stress and overwhelm of having COVID in the household is never fun, the chances are in your favor of you and your child making a full recovery. There are thankfully more resources and a deeper understanding of how the COVID virus works, spreads, and impacts the body. In the United States, vaccines are widely available for children as young as five years old, with the FDA, otherwise known as the Food and Drug Administration, approving the Pfizer vaccine for use in children ages 5 through 11. That’s a great resource for any concerned parent who wants to help build their child’s immunity to the disease.
It’s important to stay informed, as new variants can change the guidance at any time. The pandemic still isn’t over, though I’m sure we all wish it were. But I hope the takeaway from this article is that there are ways you can take precautions, be at ease about the minimal chance of severe disease impacting your toddler, and know how to handle a positive test result. If you ever have any concerns, you can always find more resources on the CDC website, or talk to your health care provider to ensure you’re up to date on the latest information.