COVID-19 and your child
This page is updated as new resources are developed.
COVID-19 is an illness caused by a coronavirus. Human coronaviruses are common and are typically associated with mild illnesses, similar to the common cold.
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms may be very mild or more serious. Symptoms may take up to 14 days to appear after exposure to the virus. Symptoms have included:
- Difficulty breathing
- Pneumonia in both lungs
Children with certain chronic conditions may have more severe COVID-19 disease than healthy children.
I keep hearing of an inflammatory illness possibly linked to COVID-19 in kids. Should I be concerned?
A hyperinflammatory illness has been reported in a small number of children a few weeks after having COVID-19. Some children develop symptoms like a fever that lasts at least 3 days, pink eyes, rashes, swollen hands and feet and severe stomach pain. Researchers believe that symptoms may be a delayed inflammatory response to the virus. For more information on this, visit the Canadian Paediatric Society's website.
How can I protect myself and my child?
You can do many things to help prevent the spread of germs that cause respiratory illnesses. Encourage your child to help stop the spread of COVID-19 by teaching them to do the same things everyone should do to stay healthy:
- wash your hands often with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer
- practice physical distancing (ideally 2 metres from those outside of your household)
- stay home if you are sick
- wear a mask when physical distancing is not possible
- clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces
- sneeze and cough into your sleeve
- avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth
- avoid contact with people who are sick
- follow instructions of your local public health agency
What should I do if I think my child is sick?
Children who have mild COVID-19 symptoms are able to stay at home with a caregiver throughout their recovery without needing hospitalization. DO NOT take your child to the emergency room with mild symptoms.
If your child is experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, call your health care provider or public health agency for further instructions. Depending on where you live, they may direct you to a special assessment centre set up for COVID-19 testing.
DO NOT call 911 unless it is an emergency.
My child is due for vaccines. Is it safe to be immunized during the pandemic?
Yes. Routine childhood vaccines should be kept up to date, including the flu vaccine. Delaying or not getting them could put your child at risk for common and serious childhood infections. Contact your provider to see what process they currently have in place for giving childhood vaccines. You can also contact your local public health unit.
Will a visit to my health care provider increase our risk of being exposed to COVID-19?
Health care providers have strict safety measures in place to ensure your safety and the safety of staff during your visit. Delaying vaccines could cause future outbreaks of vaccine-preventable childhood illnesses.
I just had a baby. Can people come visit?
For young infants, avoiding all respiratory viruses is important. We encourage you to continue following public health recommendations. This may include only allowing visitors within your social bubble, respecting social distancing, regular handwashing, encouraging visitors to wear masks, and not visiting if they feel ill. You can also contact your local public health authority for more guidance.
Is there a COVID-19 vaccine for children?
Yes. The vaccine is safe and effective for children 5 years and older. Parents/caregivers should have their children vaccinated as soon as they are able to. That depends on where you live, and how much vaccine is available in your area. Check with your local public health authority for information on when and where your child can receive a COVID-19 vaccine.
How can I talk to my child about COVID-19?
A disease outbreak such as COVID-19 can be hard for children and teens to cope with and understand. How your child or teen responds will depend on their age, temperament, and developmental level. Please consult our resource, Helping children and teens cope with stressful public events, for more guidance.
There are a few specific things you can do and say to build your child’s resilience:
- Reassure your child that many doctors, nurses, and scientific experts around the world are working hard to keep us safe and healthy.
- Children are observant and pick up on our expressions and emotions. Help them to understand, verbalize and organize their own feelings around the pandemic.
- Find out what they know about what is happening. Correct any misinformation about “this germ”.
- Be honest, but positive. Reinforce that they are unlikely to get sick, but that it is still important that they do their part to protect themselves and their families -- especially those who are at higher risk.
- Be mindful of your child’s exposure to the news. Model good media habits and try to limit the news running in the background. Explore child-appropriate options and watch together.
- Encourage and strengthen existing connections with family, friends and neighbours in creative ways.
- Talk to your child about supporting and thanking others who are on the frontlines of healthcare, and those who are maintaining our public services.
Resources you can trust
Information about COVID-19 for families:
- COVID-19 vaccine for children (Canadian Paediatric Society)
- Masks and children during COVID-19 (Canadian Paediatric Society)
- Stick to immunization schedule during the COVID-19 pandemic, paediatricians urge (Canadian Paediatric Society)
- Hand sanitizers: Promoting safe use by children (Canadian Paediatric Society)
- Handwashing for parents and children (Canadian Paediatric Society)
- A parent’s guide to health information on the Internet (Canadian Paediatric Society)
- What to expect at the emergency department (ECHO, ARCHE & TREKK)
- Helping children through a COVID-19 test (BC Children's Hospital)
- COVID-19 Health Literacy Project: Information in 30+ languages (Harvard Health Publishing)
Back to school:
- COVID-19 and schools: Information for families (Canadian Paediatric Society)
Positive parenting during a pandemic:
- Paediatricians (& Child Psychiatrists) for Parents: #CaringForKidsDuringCovid (A video series by the Canadian Paediatric Society)
- Helping children and teens cope with stressful public events (Canadian Paediatric Society)
- How can we talk to kids about COVID-19? Be “realistically reassuring” (Canadian Paediatric Society)
- Parenting during COVID-19: A new frontier (Canadian Paediatric Society)
- Preventing home injuries in the time of COVID-19 (Canadian Paediatric Society, Parachute)
- How to support your child’s mental health during COVID-19 (School Mental Health Ontario)
Resources for adolescents and their parents:
- COVID-19 Youth Mental Health Resource Hub (Jack.org)
- COVID, youth, and substance use: Critical messages for youth and families (Canadian Paediatric Society)
- COVID-19 and cannabis: How to reduce your risk (Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction)
Promoting mental health for children and youth:
- The CARD System for Coping with fears and anxiety (AboutKidsHealth.ca by The Hospital for Sick Children)
- How to help youth tackle the blues during COVID-19 and #physicaldistancing (Dr. Erin Romanchych and Dr. Daphne Korczak)
- Supporting youth with anxiety disorders during the COVID-19 pandemic (Dr. Nicola Keyhan, The Hospital for Sick Children)
- Mental Health During COVID-19: Signs Your Child May Need More Support (American Academy of Pediatrics)
Children with special health needs:
- Type 1 diabetes and COVID-19 (Canadian Paediatric Society)
- Paediatric asthma and COVID-19 (Canadian Paediatric Society) - Inhaler dose tracking sheet (BC's Children's Hospital)
- When your child has ADHD: Coping during a Pandemic (Dr. Daniel Gorman, The Hospital for Sick Children)
- Supporting your child with a neurodevelopmental disorder through the COVID-19 crisis (AboutKidsHealth, The Hospital for Sick Children)
- COVID-19 information and resources for families (Autism Speaks)
Along with your local public health agency, follow these sources for up to date clinical information:
- Coronavirus disease (Public Health Agency of Canada)
- Provincial and territorial resources for COVID-19 (Public Health Agency of Canada)
Reviewed by the following CPS committees
- Infectious Diseases and Immunization Committee
- Public Education Advisory Committee
Last updated: February 2022