What To Do If You're Worried Your Child Has Coronavirus

Professor Martin Marshall tells HuffPost UK parents should take reassurance from evidence suggesting it’s generally a mild disease in children.

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It began a week ago with a throwaway comment from my eight-year-old. “I can’t smell anything,” she said. It stopped me in my tracks.

Loss of smell, or anosmia, is yet to be listed as a key symptom of coronavirus by the NHS – but around the word, countries have noted it as an early warning sign. And professor Carl Philpott, a smell expert at UEA’s Norwich Medical School, previously told HuffPost UK it makes sense that a Covid-19 infection might cause this symptom.

“With viral shedding [the release of the virus] highest in the nose, it’s not surprising that the ‘unprotected’ smell receptor tissue at the top of the nose is vulnerable to infection,” he said.

The next day, my daughter had muscle aches, a slight temperature, fatigue and a terrible headache – the kind that made her wince when she looked at the light. I spent an hour on the phone to the NHS helpline 111, with the agreement that if she got any worse, I’d take her to A&E. At home, we built her a ‘nest’ with a bed in the living room, her iPad and plenty of fluids.

Thankfully, a week later, she’s on the mend. We’ll never know for sure whether or not she had the virus, but we’re self-isolating for 14 days now, just in case.

It’s understandable I was worried. Covid-19 is a new disease and one we’re learning about all the time, including reports of a rare coronavirus-related condition similar to toxic shock syndrome (TSS) and Kawasaki disease, apparently affecting children.

But Professor Martin Marshall, chair of the Royal College of GPs, said parents should take reassurance from the bulk of evidence suggesting it’s generally a mild disease in children, with a low morbidity and mortality rate.

“In most cases, this will mean that children who do become ill with the virus will make a full recovery and can be cared for at home,” he told HuffPost UK.

“Nevertheless, throughout the Covid-19 pandemic we have been urging the public to continue seeking medical help for themselves and their children if they are seriously ill or concerned about their health. They can do this by contacting NHS 111 or their GP practice – or in emergencies dialling 999.”

If you’re worried your child might have the virus, follow these five steps to look after them at home, advised by Prof. Marshall.

1. Isolate

Anyone with symptoms of coronavirus – a new, continuous cough or high temperature – should stay in isolation for seven days, and those who live with them should isolate for 14 days from the day their symptoms first appeared.

2. Rest

Parents should ensure the child gets lots of rest, nutritious food and regular fluids, said Marshall.

3. Medicate

Age-appropriate paracetamol or ibuprofen can help with fevers and headaches, but if symptoms worsen, or don’t improve within seven days, parents should get back in contact with the health service. Call 111 for advice or 999 in an emergency.

4. Clean

Clean the house regularly, including all surfaces and door handles the child may have touched, and regularly wash clothes and bedding.

5. Wash

Make sure everyone in the family is washing their hands regularly for 20 seconds.

If your entire family is self-isolating, it might be worth calling on friends, relatives or neighbours to shop for essentials and leave them on your doorstep.

It’s also important to reassure your child that while they feel poorly now, they will likely feel better soon. And ease any worries about the impact of the virus. Mark Reinecke, psychologist at the Child Mind Institute, told HuffPost: “If you remain calm, your child will be more likely to grasp what’s important: that events can upset our lives, but we can learn from bad experiences and work together to grow stronger.”

HuffPost UK has also contacted Public Health England and NHS England for comment and will update this piece when they respond.