What Parents Need to Know

Reliable information about COVID-19 is available for parents from organizations such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization, and the American Academy of Pediatrics. The information below will help you find answers to many common questions about COVID-19.

Symptoms in Children

Symptoms of COVID-19 in children may be similar to those for common respiratory viruses and they may be milder than adult symptoms. Also, children may not have any symptoms even though they are infected, but they can still spread the disease to others.

  • fever
  • symptoms of respiratory infection
  • cough
  • nasal congestion
  • runny nose
  • Vomiting and diarrhea have also been reported

Staying Safe When You Have to Leave Home

While it is still very important to follow the CDC guidelines for staying at home to slow the spread of the disease, some activities outside the home are considered essential. These tips can help you safely navigate those brief essential trips, such as buying groceries.

  • Wear a mask
  • Don't touch your face
  • Bring wipes to disinfect all surfaces
  • Use hand sanitizer
  • Wash your hands when you get home

How Do I Help My Kids Avoid Getting Sick?

The CDC recommends the same preventive actions for avoiding other illnesses. Help kids develop healthy habits and remind them how important those habits are. Advice for parents include keeping items at home clean and disinfected.

Updated CDC Guidelines for Kids

The CDC provides more information for helping kids stay healthy and manage stress, tips for managing school from home and staying active, as well as how to keep others in your home healthy.
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  • Wash hands often using soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer, if soap and water aren't available.
  • Avoid people who are coughing and sneezing or who have other symptoms of being sick.
  • Clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces daily in household common areas (e.g. tables, hard-backed chairs, doorknobs, light switches, remotes, handles, desks, toilets, sinks).
  • Launder items including washable plush toys as appropriate in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. If possible, launder items using the warmest appropriate water setting for the items and dry items completely. Dirty laundry from an ill person can be washed with other people’s items.

WRAL's "Go Ask Mom"

Cheryl Jackson, MD, division chief of pediatric emergency medicine at UNC Health, talked to WRAL's "Go Ask Mom" about parents' concerns of COVID-19 and affirmed that kids are not more susceptible to the illness. She also offered advice about how to discuss COVID-19 with kids and teens.

Dealing with School Closings

Most schools and child care centers have closed, leaving parents looking for ways to make alternate childcare and work arrangements or ways to help their kids adjust to being home and possibly using online class options. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends keeping routines as normal as possible and suggests these tips:

  • Read books with your child.
  • Make time for active play.
  • Keep an eye on media time.

For more advice, visit the COVID-19 section of the AAP's website.

Helping Kids Cope with Stress

The World Health Organization (WHO) advises talking to kids about how they can avoid getting sick in words they can understand based on their age, as well as talking in a reassuring way about what could happen if someone they know were to get sick. The WHO also suggests other ways to help children cope with stress during a health crisis, such as responding in a supportive way if they are anxious or clingy and trying to keep their regular schedules as much as possible.

The AAP is another good source of information about helping kids understand the information they are hearing in the news about COVID-19. Some of their recommendations include talking to kids in a way they can understand as well as these tips:

  • Offer simple reassurance.
  • Give them control.
  • Watch for signs of anxiety.
  • Monitor their media.
  • Be a good role model.

The National Child Traumatic Stress Network created a Parent/Caregiver Guide to Helping Families Cope With COVID-19.

If You Have Symptoms of COVID-19

If you are concerned you have been exposed or have symptoms of COVID-19, click the COVID-19 Help tab on the bottom of the page. This will bring up our COVID-19 symptom checker that will lead you through some questions to determine if you need medical follow-up. You can also call your primary care provider. Review COVID-19 testing options on this page. 

UNC Health has a very limited supply of monoclonal antibody treatment medications right now. The fastest way to see if treatment is available or if you are eligible is to call your primary care physician. 

Call 911 or seek immediate treatment if your COVID-19 symptoms include:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Persistent chest pain and/or pressure
  • A fever >104 degrees Fahrenheit that isn’t improving with over-the-counter fever reducing medication
  • Persistent vomiting and/or diarrhea
  • Confusion they weren’t experiencing before
  • An inability to get up
  • A blue tint to your lips and/or face

At-Home Activities for Kids and Families

Child doing craft projectSchools are closed, and many parents are working from home to help slow the spread of COVID-19. We have collected a few of the many resources available online to help you keep your family active and engaged during this time at home.

Effective Hand Washing

Hand washing is an important part of preventing illness, but what is the best way to wash your hands? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explains their recommendations in this video.

Frequently Asked Questions

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention answers common questions about COVID-19.