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What Is Coronavirus (COVID-19)?
At the end of 2019, a new type of coronavirus began making people sick with flu-like symptoms. The illness is called coronavirus disease-19 — COVID-19, for short. The virus spreads easily and has affected people all over the world.
What Is a Pandemic?
When a disease affects many people in a community or other limited area, it’s called an epidemic. If the disease spreads to many countries or around the world, it’s called a pandemic.
The worldwide spread of COVID-19 is a pandemic. At times, many more people have gotten infected than at other times. These are called surges or waves. The virus spreads easily, so surges are most likely when people gather and aren’t wearing masks or aren’t vaccinated. They're also more likely if the virus changes to a more contagious form, such as the Delta variant that's now causing more infections and spreading faster than the original virus.
What Are the Signs & Symptoms of Coronavirus (COVID-19)?
COVID-19 can cause a range of symptoms, including:
- trouble breathing
- symptoms of a cold such as a sore throat, congestion, or a runny nose
- muscle pain
- a loss of taste or smell
- nausea or vomiting
The virus can be more serious in some people. And some people have no symptoms at all.
Some kids are having symptoms caused by inflammation throughout the body, sometimes several weeks after they were infected with the virus. This is called multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C). Doctors are trying to find out how these symptoms are related to coronavirus infection.
Symptoms seen in kids who have MIS-C included:
- belly pain
- vomiting or diarrhea
- a rash
- neck pain
- red eyes
- red, cracked lips
- swollen hands or feet
- swollen glands (lymph nodes)
Kids who are very sick with MIS-C may have trouble breathing, pain or pressure in the chest, bluish lips or face, confusion, or trouble staying awake.
How Does Coronavirus (COVID-19) Spread?
People can catch COVID-19 from others who have the virus even if they don't have any symptoms. This happens when an infected person breathes, talks, sneezes, or coughs, sending tiny droplets into the air. These can land in the nose, mouth, or eyes of someone nearby, or be breathed in. Some of the tiniest droplets, called aerosols, can linger in the air for minutes to hours and travel on air currents. But it seems that the risk of spread is highest when people are less than 6 feet apart.
People also might get infected if they touch an infected droplet on a surface and then touch their own nose, mouth, or eyes. But this type of spread is a lot less common.
Experts are looking at how the virus spreads and stays in the air, and whether it can spread through stool (poop).
Is Coronavirus (COVID-19) Dangerous to Children?
Experts are still learning about COVID-19. Far fewer cases have been reported in children. Usually, the virus seems to cause a milder infection in children than in adults or older people.
But in some cases of MIS-C, kids developed more serious symptoms, sometimes several weeks after being infected with the virus. Most kids with MIS-C get better after they get special care in the hospital, sometimes in the ICU (intensive care unit).
Now, more kids are getting infected with the newer, more contagious Delta variant and needing care in a hospital. Cases are rising among teenagers who are not yet vaccinated and kids younger than 12 who can’t get vaccinated yet.
Call your doctor if your child has symptoms of COVID-19 or MIS-C, or just isn't feeling well. Tell the doctor if your child has been near someone with COVID-19, or lived in or traveled to an area where lots of people have the coronavirus.
Get care right away if your child:
- has trouble breathing
- has severe belly pain
- has pain or pressure in the chest
- is confused or not making sense
- is having trouble staying awake
- looks bluish in the lips or face
These symptoms can be warning signs of serious illness.
How Is Coronavirus (COVID-19) Treated?
There is no specific medicine for kids with mild COVID-19. Most people with a mild illness, including children, get better with rest, fluids, and fever-reducing medicine. Some people get very ill and need treatment in the hospital. Rarely, doctors will give some medicines, such as antiviral drugs or steroids, to children in the hospital with severe COVID-19.
COVID-19 vaccines are available for people 12 and older. Everyone should get vaccinated as soon as they are eligible. Studies are under way to see if the vaccines are safe and effective in younger children.
What Can Parents Do?
Common steps that help prevent the spread of germs also work well against COVID-19. It's always wise to:
- Wash hands well and often. Wash for at least 20 seconds with soap and water or use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
- Avoid people who appear sick.
- Clean things that get touched a lot (like doorknobs, counters, phones, etc.).
- Experts say that everyone age 2 and up should wear a mask on public transportation. They also recommend wearing masks indoors and in crowded outdoor settings in areas with a high rate of COVID-19 infection. Unvaccinated people should always wear a mask indoors and in crowded settings, no matter what the community infection rate is. In general, it is a good idea to avoid crowds and indoor spaces that don’t get a lot of fresh air.
Where Can I Learn More About Coronavirus (COVID-19)?
Check the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO) websites for up-to-date information.
- Coronavirus (COVID-19): Home Care & Precautions
- Coronavirus (COVID-19): Questions & Answers About Vaccines
- Coronavirus (COVID-19): Social Distancing With Children
- Coronavirus (COVID-19): Delta and Other Variants
- Coronavirus (COVID-19): Pregnancy FAQs
- Coronavirus (COVID-19): What to Do if Your Child Is Sick
- Hand Washing: Why It's So Important
- How to Take Your Child's Temperature
- Coronavirus (COVID-19): Your Questions Answered
- Understanding Coronavirus (COVID-19)
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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