Children's Hospital Colorado

Parents' Top Questions About the Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Children's Hospital Colorado | May 14, 2020

This page was updated on May 15, 2020. Due to the shifting nature of the coronavirus pandemic, recommendations can change quickly. Please follow all rules and guidelines set by state and local public health and safety authorities. Reference the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) for immediate updates on COVID-19.

With the new coronavirus in the spotlight for media attention and public concern, we asked one of our experts to answer parents' common questions about the respiratory illness. Here's what Chris Nyquist, MD, MSPH, Sean O’Leary, MD, MPH, and Lalit Bajaj, MD, MPH, infectious diseases and emergency medicine specialists at Children's Hospital Colorado, had to say.

What is this new coronavirus?

The clinical name for the illness caused by this new coronavirus is COVID-19. The virus itself has been called SARS-CoV-2, and you may see all of these terms used in the news. This virus was identified as the cause of a respiratory illness outbreak first detected in China in December 2019. The CDC has the most updated information on cases and fatalities in the United States.

SARS-CoV-2 is a new virus that has not been previously identified in the human population. Early studies suggest that it likely originated from a bat virus.

About the coronavirus

The most common coronavirus symptoms are fever, cough, muscle aches, headache and tiredness. Some people develop shortness of breath and loss of smell and taste, although these symptoms seem to be less common in children.

People develop symptoms 2 to 14 days after exposure (5 days on average) to COVID-19. This is called the coronavirus incubation period, or the time from when a person is exposed to when they have symptoms.

Most people will get better within a few weeks, but those with a severe case of the disease may take a month or more to recover.

The good news is that children seem to have milder forms of the illness. Coronavirus symptoms in kids up to 18 years of age range from infection without symptoms, to mild upper respiratory symptoms with runny nose and cough, to pneumonia requiring hospitalization.

In general, babies can be at a higher risk for any respiratory infection. According to the very limited data available about COVID-19, current literature suggests this illness has been mild for young children.

Why is the coronavirus more dangerous to older people than younger people?

In the video below, 10-year-old Mia wants to know why the coronavirus might be more dangerous for her grandma and grandpa than her and her sister. Pediatric infectious disease specialist Dr. Sean O’Leary talks about how the coronavirus seems to affect people of different ages.

The inflammatory disease is called multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, or MIS-C for short. It is similar to Kawasaki disease, an illness that is most common in young children. Symptoms of the inflammatory disease caused by the coronavirus include high fever and swelling in blood vessels. Children may also develop a rash and experience abdominal pain and vomiting.

Because this a new and evolving situation, we are continuing to monitor MIS-C. Scientists around the world are working hard to understand the coronavirus inflammatory syndrome and how best to treat it.

Fortunately, parents can be reassured that MIS-C is very rare in kids.

Listen to our Charting Pediatrics podcast where pediatric experts discuss MIS-C.

Fortunately, current information suggests that children are unlikely to become severely ill with the coronavirus (COVID-19). However, children with certain underlying conditions may be at higher risk, specifically those children with problems that impact the heart or lungs or ability to fight infection. Examples of conditions include:

  • Cancer treatment
  • Chronic lung disease
  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • Immunodeficiency conditions
  • Neurologic conditions (including muscle disorders)
  • Obesity
  • Organ transplant
  • Treatment with medications that lower the immune system

Below are general recommendations for all families:

Medications

We do NOT recommend stopping any long-term medications because maintaining good control of underlying conditions is one of the best strategies to avoid more severe coronavirus. Avoiding flares of underlying disease will help prevent unnecessary trips to the hospital, where ill patients are likely to be seeking care. It is a good idea to make sure you have refilled your child's prescriptions and have at least a two-week supply of medications on hand.

Routine clinic visits

To maximize social distancing and adhere to the Safer at Home orders, as well as keep our families safe, many non-urgent appointments at Children’s Colorado are being postponed or converted to telehealth visits. Learn more about how we've temporarily closed select locations to help reduce the spread of the coronavirus in our community.

School

In Colorado, schools (preschool through 12th grade) are closed through the end of the 2019-2020 regular school year in compliance with directives from the governor, who is assessing community risk of the coronavirus.

Travel

Colorado’s Safer at Home order asks people to limit essential travel to within their county of residence or employment as much as possible. It also limits recreational travel to no further than 10 miles from home. Staying at home is the best way to protect your child and family from getting sick.

Everyday precautions

With Colorado’s Safer at Home order effective April 27, the Governor states that we must continue to practice social distancing and implement precautionary other measures. This includes limiting social interactions, taking extra precautions for vulnerable individuals and wearing face coverings while in public. 

In addition, we recommend that families:

  • Avoid contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid crowds as much as possible.
  • Wash hands often or use hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your face, nose, mouth or eyes as much as possible.
  • If you provide care for your child that involve contact with the head and neck, wash hands thoroughly before providing care.
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces.

Preparations

The outbreak could last for a long time. Public health measures, such as Safer at Home, are intended to reduce likelihood of person-to-person contact.

Staying at home is the safest option to avoid exposure, so ensure you have sufficient stock of prescription medications, over-the-counter medications, medical supplies, household items and groceries. Please note that hoarding is not advised, as it affects the supply chain and limits other people from getting essential items. 

Illness

If your child has symptoms of a cold or fever but it is not an emergency, call your primary care provider or your care team at Children's Colorado to get advice. Remember that other respiratory viruses that are not the coronavirus are still making children ill in the community, and are still common causes of fever and respiratory symptoms.

The good news is that most patients with the coronavirus are not sick enough to require hospitalization or an emergency department visit, and their symptoms can be managed at home. We would prefer to keep your child away from the hospital unless there is a medical emergency.

Families with children who have special considerations when they get a fever (such as children with a central line or those undergoing treatment for cancer) should continue to handle fever as they would under normal circumstances.

This is an emerging and rapidly evolving situation. The CDC will provide updated information and guidance as it becomes available.

All confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Colorado will be reported by the CDPHE.

Adults older than 65 years of age and those with underlying medical conditions have shown more serious coronavirus symptoms and are likely at a higher risk.

Just like preventive methods to prevent the spread of other respiratory viruses, the CDC recommends:

  • Practice good hand hygiene.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a cloth face covering when around others.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are ill.
  • Get the flu vaccination for everyone 6 months and older.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces.
  • Practice safe social distancing of 6 feet or more.

Answering kids’ questions about social distancing

In the video below, 11-year-old Eileen wants to know why people have to stand 6 feet apart. Pediatric infectious disease specialist Dr. Sean O’Leary explains why a distance of 6 feet helps to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

 

The virus likely spreads through droplets produced when a person coughs or sneezes. Current data indicates that some people infected with COVID-19 can transmit the virus before having symptoms.

Answering kids’ questions about how the coronavirus is spread

In the video below, 16-year-old Armando asks pediatric infectious disease specialist Dr. Sean O’Leary if the coronavirus can be spread through talking or breathing. Dr. O’Leary explains how the coronavirus spreads from one person to another and why it’s important to maintain distance from other people.

At this time, we do not know if people can get the coronavirus more than once. In the video below, pediatric infectious disease specialist Dr. Sean O’Leary explains.

Testing and treatment

No. You only should go to the emergency department if you are experiencing a medical emergency or are directed to go there by a medical provider. This will help limit the spread of the virus in our community, as well as allow our emergency departments to care for patients with the most critical needs first.

If you believe that you may have been exposed to the coronavirus, please call your doctor or the State's call center, CO-Help, at 303-389-1687 or 1-877-462-2911 for answers in many languages, or email them at CoHelp@RMPDC.org for answers in English.

If your child is sick, please contact their primary care provider. If you do not have a primary care provider for your child, our free ParentSmart Healthline™ at 720-777-0123 can offer guidance on the right course of action for your family.

If you do need to seek medical attention, please call ahead so the medical providers can help prevent the spread of disease.

As part of our ongoing commitment to our community, we are now offering COVID-19 testing at our Anschutz Medical Campus and Colorado Springs locations to children and their caregivers who are exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms. You must have a referral from your child's primary care provider and make an appointment to receive testing. (Walk-ins are not accepted.)

Please call to schedule an appointment and for information on insurance, billing and more:

Currently there are no antivirals (medicine used to treat viral infections) or vaccines available for the coronavirus. That means that if you or your child tests positive for the coronavirus, you should focus on alleviating the symptoms of fever, cough, muscle aches, tiredness and shortness of breath. Acetaminophen will help with relieving symptoms. Please call your doctor if you or your child experience shortness of breath.

Researchers are currently conducting clinical trials to learn more about how to treat the coronavirus. Several research groups are also actively working on the development of a vaccine to prevent coronavirus, but this is many months away.

Answering kids’ questions about a coronavirus cure

In the video below, Caleb and Mia ask about when we will have a cure and what goes into a cure. Pediatric infectious disease specialist Dr. Sean O’Leary discusses a potential timeline for effective medication and a vaccine.

If your child develops coronavirus symptoms, your family should isolate at home and you should contact your primary care provider to see if coronavirus testing is appropriate.

If you were in close contact with someone who develops COVID-19, you should stay in your home (also called self-quarantine) for 14 days after your last exposure to the infected person.

In the video below, 11-year-old Lylah asks pediatric infectious disease specialist Dr. Sean O’Leary if dogs can get the coronavirus. Dr. O’Leary discusses whether dogs can test positive for coronavirus, if they get symptoms and if they can spread it to other people. 

Impact on everyday life

The Safer at Home order from the Governor of Colorado asks people to limit essential travel to within their county of residence or employment as much as possible. It also limits recreational travel to no further than 10 miles from home.

It is advisable that families have a 2- to 4-week supply of essential medicines, prescriptions and food on hand. Please call your primary care provider if you have more questions about medication for your child or family.

On April 3, 2020, the CDC announced updated recommendations that everyone, even those who have not contracted the coronavirus, wear face coverings that cover the nose and mouth when outside their homes. Wearing simple face coverings helps slow the spread of the virus and helps people who may have the virus unknowingly not transmit it to others. The virus spreads mostly through droplets in the air, which fabrics can help filter.

Colorado Governor Jared Polis also asked all Coloradans to wear non-medical cloth face coverings outside of the home.

Please note:

  • Save medical-grade masks for healthcare professionals: The CDC does not recommend wearing N95 and other medical isolation masks outside of a healthcare setting if you are not sick. It is better to save masks for medical professionals who need them and get special training on how to wear masks and other personal protective equipment.
  • Maintaining social distancing and proper handwashing remain critical. Use your cloth face covering in addition to preventive measures like staying 6 feet away from others and washing your hands properly.
  • Cloth face coverings should not be placed on children under age 2. They should also not be used on anyone who has trouble breathing, cannot keep them on for developmental reasons, or is unable to remove the mask without help.

Visit the Colorado Mask Project for patterns and videos about how to make a cloth face covering.

Face coverings are required for patients and visitors at all Children’s Colorado locations

Effective April 28, visitors must wear a face covering at all Children’s Colorado locations. We encourage you to bring a face covering from home. We also have a limited supply of homemade face coverings for visitors who do not have one.

The video below will help prepare your child for the different types of masks and face coverings they'll see when they come to our hospital. We encourage parents and kids to watch the video together and talk about what to expect. 

Refer to the CDC's existing guidelines for schools and childcare centers. Parents can help by encouraging kids to practice good hand hygiene and stay home when they’re sick.

In-person instruction at all schools in Colorado (preschool through 12th grade) is suspended until the end of the 2019-2020 regular school year. Decisions regarding the 2020-2021 school year have not yet been made.

Families should think about a back-up plan for childcare and potential telework options.

Chances are, your child has heard about the coronavirus – whether it’s at school, or by overhearing news coverage or grown-up conversations. Fortunately, most parents have all the skills necessary to help kids deal with questions about the coronavirus and calm their fears. These coronavirus tips for parents from the CDC and American Academy of Pediatrics can help:

  • Be available: Parents should be accessible to their kids physically and emotionally. If a child is anxious about the coronavirus, nurturing and supportive parents provide a safe space to vent emotions.
  • Decrease media usage: As feelings of panic or fear rise, extensive news media coverage can heighten those feelings – especially in children. Limit your family’s media consumption or consider watching TV after the kids go to bed.
  • Display and promote stability: Kids look to their parents for cues on how to react. If parents are anxious, their children are likely to be nervous as well. Parents can help by projecting stability and calmness. Keeping a child's routine as normal as possible gives them a sense of stability and helps them feel safe.
  • Be honest and open to kids’ fears: It’s okay for parents to admit their concerns, but stress that you are taking measures to keep your family safe with basic precautions like hand washing and keeping your home clean.
  • Be prepared for questions: It’s okay to not have all the answers. For older children, you can point them to reliable information sources like the CDC. For younger kids, tell them you don’t know the answer yet, but you’ll find out and get back to them (with age-appropriate explanations). Then, discuss steps that our community takes to ensure public health and safety; remind kids that doctors, researchers and hospitals are working hard to keep them safe and healthy.

Get kids outside as often as you can. Not only is it good for their mental health, but activities like taking the dog for a walk or riding bikes are low risk if you stay a minimum of 6 feet away from other people.

We urge everyone to follow the public health guidelines for their community. Public health measures like the safer at home order are intended to reduce the likelihood of person-to-person contact. Staying at home is the safest option to avoid exposure.

Remember that it can be hard on kids not to see their friends. Parents can help them stay in contact with phone calls, video chat or writing letters.

We understand that being a caregiver to children or older adults can be stressful, even in the best of times. During the coronavirus crisis, there are numerous ways this pandemic could impact caregiver wellbeing. If you are feeling like this or experiencing any of these signs, don't be alarmed:

  • Fear of coming down with the coronavirus, and concerns about health and wellbeing of yourselves, your family and loved ones.
  • Uncertainty and anxiety due to quickly changing public health data, recommendations and 24/7 news coverage that's hard to escape.
  • Pressure to work longer, harder or differently while balancing childcare and other changes in family routines and availability.
  • Isolation from family, friends, co-workers and community support systems.
  • Significant disruption in our usual routine and reduction in our enjoyable and recreational activities.
  • Conflicting demands between work and family responsibilities.

It's normal to feel increased stress as we respond to the numerous challenges and demands of the pandemic. As a caregiver, you might need more support. Psychologists at Children's Colorado are available to help support our families.

There is certainly increased stress that caregivers are currently feeling. However, this can help to focus and attend to the important things needed to do to remain healthy and maintain your wellbeing at home and/or work. Here are a few tips from our experts:

Check-in with yourself

  • We all experience stress differently. Take a moment at the beginning and/or end of each day (and throughout as needed) to check-in with yourself to assess your feelings and thoughts. Knowing and accepting how you are doing will help to meet your needs.

Schedule time to worry

  • If you find it hard to focus while worried, schedule a short time (only 5 or 10 minutes) to write down your concerns on a post-it, journal or note on your phone. It can help them seem more manageable and allow you to "snooze" unwanted worried thoughts throughout the day.

Breathe and be present

  • Future concerns and "what if" questions can take you out of the present moment. Practice deep breathing or mindfulness while doing other regular routines like washing your hands, brushing your teeth or folding laundry. This will help you stay present, focused and grounded in the here-and-now.

Define what you can control

  • Defining what you can control helps to make plans and have direction when feeling overwhelmed. Write down a list of things you can and cannot control to focus your efforts and actions on the things you can.

Stay connected

  • Reach out to family, friends and colleagues for support. Call or use video chat with individuals or groups to meet your social needs and reduce feelings of isolation. Connect over shared interests, jokes, entertainment or other healthy distractions to avoid discussing only the news.

Exercise, rest and eat well

  • Attend to your basic needs. Exercise is a great way to reduce stress and help you sleep better in the evening. Even simple activities such as walking up and down the stairs, doing 2-3 minutes of stretching, or a few yoga poses can make significant changes in the physical, emotional and cognitive reactions to stress. Whenever possible, getting outside for a walk is even better!
  • And, take time to make a nutritious meal. It's worth the energy it takes to step away from other tasks and can be a fun activity to do with the whole family.

Focus on strength and positivity

  • Amidst all the challenges, fears and stress, remind yourself of what is going well and what you are grateful for. You and your family have many strengths that have helped you overcome challenges in the past. Bring them to mind and know they will help you get through the challenges you face today.
  • Before you go to sleep each night, reflect on three good things or special moments that happened during the day. Think of someone or something you are grateful for and write it down.

Information from Children’s Colorado

We're meeting regularly to be prepared with a response plan to screen for contagious illnesses. We're also working closely with our public health partners to give people the information they need. See our coronavirus resources for families and healthcare professionals.

Read more about our changes to help keep our patients, families and team members safe.

We thank you for your understanding and help keeping our patients safe. Here are other ways to show love and concern for a kiddo in our hospital:

  • Call your loved one using the hospital main line: 720-777-1234.
  • Use one of our free iPads to keep in touch using Skype or Facetime.
  • Send a free cheer card to the patient's room (available on the Anschutz Medical Campus only).
  • Send an email or greeting card.
  • Send balloons (mylar only) or other gifts from our gift shop.

We ask everyone who is ill or has had close contact with someone who may have COVID-19 to not visit the hospital. Parents and legally authorized representatives will be screened for illness when they visit. Please review our visitor guidelines.

Yes, it is safe to donate blood and platelets if you are not exhibiting any symptoms and meet our eligibility criteria. Please know that we are proactively taking precautions to prevent exposure to the coronavirus, such as: disinfecting all shared surfaces in between donors, screening all donors and technicians, spacing chairs 6 feet apart and providing food sealed in individual packages.

Donating blood is allowed during the Safer at Home orders

It’s important for healthy potential donors to know that blood donation is considered an essential function during the Safer at Home order. Donating blood is allowed under the Governor’s order, just like exercising in the park or walking your dog.

Learn more about donating blood at Children's Colorado.

If you previously had a confirmed positive COVID-19 test and are fully recovered, your plasma antibodies might be helpful for future patients. You must be 14 days symptom free (no cough, fever or shortness of breath) and have proof of a confirmed positive COVID-19 test in order to qualify to donate. We are collecting information and will be in touch if we have the need for you to donate.

We cannot do directed donations (donations to specific patients) for convalescent plasma at this time. Your donation will help someone who is critically ill with COVID-19, but we cannot guarantee that your donated unit will go to a specific person.

Call us at 720-777-3557 or email ConvalescentPlasma@childrenscolorado.org to see if you qualify.

Additional resources for coronavirus information

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