Many parents with children are struggling to adjust to a sudden lack of access to childcare and finding ways to safely educate and socialize toddlers during a pandemic. Others want to ensure that they will be able to carefully monitor their child’s well-being, especially as schools discuss reopening.
As cases have ticked up across the U.S., children are at an increased risk of unknowingly spreading the disease because a significant portion either have symptoms that imitate a common cold or even have no symptoms at all, as the CDC reported.
So here’s what to look out for if you suspect your toddler or other children may have become infected with the coronavirus:
What Symptoms Do Toddlers & Other Children Show?
The CDC has not specified symptoms for toddlers but has said most children who are not infants have the same range of symptoms as adults. The CDC noted that those children at a higher risk of developing severe symptoms tend to be infants under the age of 12 months old. Other children at increased risk, according to the CDC, include those “with obesity, diabetes, asthma, chronic lung disease or immunosuppression.”
The symptoms as described by the CDC tend to present as a cold or mild case of the flu in children. Symptoms in children include fever, cough and shortness of breath. However, some children may experience nasal congestion, a sore throat, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting, fatigue, headache, myalgia and low appetites.
Additional symptoms of coronavirus in children, according to the Mayo Clinic, include a runny nose and muscle aches.
Some parents are also concerned about a disease that seems to be closely related to exposure to COVID-19, called MIS-C.
How Frequently Do Children Contract COVID-19?
The Mayo Clinic reported that the CDC found only 1.7% of COVID-19 cases between February 12 and April 2 were among children and noted that the small percentage is similar to what other countries have reported. However, the clinic warns that children with congenital heart disease, genetic conditions, nervous-system-related and metabolism-related diseases could be at a higher risk of serious illness. The Mayo Clinic also reported that a study of 171 children in China who contracted COVID-19 found that roughly 16% were asymptomatic.
The CDC reported that the U.S. had roughly 2% of its cases among children, while in China, 2.2% of coronavirus cases occurred in those under 19 years old and in Spain, 0.8% of confirmed cases were among those younger than 18 years old.
According to the CDC, a study of more than 2,000 children with COVID-19 from China found that 90% of children showed either mild or moderate symptoms and, in comparison, only 4% were asymptomatic and only a combined 5.6% had either severe or critical reactions to the disease.
Parents Should Be Aware of Kawasaki Disease & MIS-C
Parents may also be worried about their children developing MIS-C, or multisystem inflammatory syndrome, which the Mayo Clinic said causes certain organs, such as the heart, kidneys, brain, skin and others, to swell.
The CDC has said, “We know that many children with MIS-C had the virus that causes COVID-19, or had been around someone with COVID-19. MIS-C can be serious, even deadly, but most children who were diagnosed with this condition have gotten better with medical care.”
The CDC has said that signs and symptoms of MIS-C include fever, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal or neck pain, skin rash, red eyes and unusual tiredness (the Mayo Clinic also had lip and tongue redness/swelling and hand or foot redness/swelling on its list). It may be time to call 911 if you struggle to wake your child up or if they seem to have trouble breathing, feel acute chest pain or pressure, experience severe stomach pain, show signs of confusion or their lips or face become bluish.
Parents should also keep an eye out for Kawasaki disease, which tends to take place in children who are between the ages of 6 months and 8 years, according to a Reuters article on the sudden prevalence of the disease. Kawasaki disease is an inflammatory disease that inflames and swells blood vessels throughout the body, according to Nationwide Children’s.
However, scientists seem to be debating whether Kawasaki disease and MIS-C were being confused because of the similarity of symptoms; in April, clinicians in the United Kingdom noted that there seemed to be an uptick in a disease that presented with Kawasaki-like symptoms, the CDC reported.
The CDC advises any parent concerned that their child has Kawasaki disease or MIS-C contact a physician for further advice.
What Can Parents Do to Protect Their Children?
Beyond doing the obvious – keeping toddlers physically socially distanced, washing their hands and monitoring them for signs of illness – health agencies also have other suggestions on how to keep young children and toddlers safe.
The CDC also advises parents to ensure their children get as many of their vaccines in during this pandemic as they can, so they can have protection against other diseases that might make them more vulnerable to being seriously affected by COVID-19; according to the CDC’s schedule for vaccines, the types of vaccines toddlers may receive include chickenpox; diptheria, tetanus and pertussis; flu; hepatitis A & B; measles, mumps and rubella and polio among others.