What Parents Need To Know About Covid-19 In Babies And Toddlers

Symptoms of Covid-19 in kids are similar to adults – but here's when you need to seek medical help.

A mum’s viral Facebook post about her baby who tested positive for Covid-19 – and had symptoms such as mottled skin – has sparked concern among parents of young children.

The BBC reported that Myer Rudelhoff’s four-month-old George spent three nights in Basildon Hospital, in Essex, with symptoms including: mottled skin, swelling on his lips, a fever and being unable to keep fluids down. A test showed positive for Covid-19.

Rudelhoff said she had spoken to nurses who said they’d treated several other children with mottled skin and sickness, and claimed they asked her to share her story to raise awareness.

While there’s no evidence mottled skin is a sign of Covid-19, the NHS does advise parents to call 111 or their GP surgery if their child has other signs of illness – such as a rash – as well as a high temperature. The NHS states parents should call 999 if their child has pale, blotchy, blue or grey skin.

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The official symptoms of Covid-19 in children, stated by the NHS, are the same as adults: a fever, persistent cough and loss of sense of smell or taste – although with young children, it’s hard to know if they’re experiencing the latter.

Some children might also experience vomiting or diarrhoea, however these symptoms can occur as a result of a lot of other illnesses too.

The prospect of your young baby or toddler catching Covid-19 sounds scary, but it’s important to note that instances of young children and babies becoming hospitalised with Covid-19 are rare.

Statistics show fewer than 1.5 % of all admissions to hospital with the virus are of people under 20, with even fewer of these requiring admission to an intensive care unit, according to the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH). It’s believed most children are likely to not develop any symptoms.

“Our members are seeing very few cases of babies and young children who are seriously unwell with Covid,” a RCPCH spokesperson tells HuffPost UK.

But that’s not to say children won’t develop symptoms at all, and some can be serious – doctors have seen a small number of children and teenagers with an unusual condition called Paediatric Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome (or PIMS) which seems to be linked to the virus. Children with PIMS have displayed serious inflammation throughout their body.

“The symptom all the children with this condition shared was a high temperature for more than three days,” explains RCPCH’s spokesperson, who pointed out this condition “is very rarely seen” in very young children or babies.

“We are far more concerned about serious conditions such as sepsis or meningitis in this age group,” they add.

Aaron Milstone, a paediatrician at Johns Hopkins Children’s Centre in the US, says newborn babies can get Covid-19, although most will have mild symptoms or none at all. Still, he recommends pregnant women are careful to avoid coronavirus.

Other symptoms of Covid-19 in babies and children, he suggests, include: shortness of breath or difficulty breathing; muscle or body aches; sore throat; headache; new fatigue; and congestion or a runny nose.

In addition to knowing the specific symptoms of Covid-19 in young children, parents should be aware of a more broad range of symptoms that could signal health problems that require urgent attention.

The NHS advises parents to call 111 or their GP surgery if their child:

  • is under three months old and has a temperature of 38C or higher, or you think they have a fever
  • is 3-6 months old and has a temperature of 39C or higher, or you think they have a fever
  • has other signs of illness, such as a rash, as well as a high temperature (fever)
  • has a high temperature that’s lasted for five days or more
  • does not want to eat, or is not their usual self and you’re worried
  • has a high temperature that does not come down with paracetamol
  • is dehydrated – for example, nappies are not very wet, they have sunken eyes, and there are no tears when they cry.

Parents should call 999 if their child:

  • has a stiff neck
  • has a rash that does not fade when you press a glass against it (use the “glass test” from Meningitis Now)
  • is bothered by light
  • has a seizure or fit for the first time (they cannot stop shaking)
  • has unusually cold hands and feet
  • has pale, blotchy, blue or grey skin
  • has a weak, high-pitched cry that’s not like their usual cry
  • is drowsy and hard to wake
  • is extremely agitated (does not stop crying) or is confused
  • finds it hard to breathe and sucks their stomach in under their ribs
  • has a soft spot on their head that curves outwards
  • is not responding like they usually do, or not interested in feeding or usual activities.