Covid-19: Frequently asked questions

COVID-19 Symptoms in Children

Are the symptoms of COVID-19 the same for children and adults?
Symptoms in children are generally milder than for adults. Children can still however experience other symptoms like nausea, headache, fever (in about 50 per cent of cases), fatigue, irritability, loss of appetite, sore throat, a runny nose, dry cough and, sometimes, diarrhoea.

Can children get COVID-19 without symptoms?
Yes, children can have an asymptomatic infection, meaning they can have COVID-19 and not have any symptoms. It is common for children to have no or only mild symptoms to COVID-19.

COVID-19 Transmission in Children

Can children, with mild or no illness, transmit COVID-19 to others?
Children who have more severe symptoms are more likely to transmit COVID-19 to others, however children with mild or no illness can still transmit it to others.

Is there a similar pattern, with other viruses, where children experience milder illness than adults but are spreaders of the infection?
SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, is similar in its infection pattern to SARS, which emerged in 2003. SARS also infected fewer young people, and gave them milder symptoms than adults. Other infectious diseases with similar patterns include chickenpox and Epstein Barr virus. In contrast, the influenza strains affect children more severely, and are more readily spread by children and young people. It is especially important that children receive their annual influenza vaccination, and maintain their childhood vaccination schedule.

Comorbidities in Children

Who are the most vulnerable children in our community?
Although children are generally at low-risk, children with existing illnesses and a lower health 'baseline' are probably at increased risk. These include immunocompromised children and children from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Are children with pre-existing health conditions more at risk of severe COVID-19?
Similar to adults with underlying health issues (called co-morbidities), children with co-morbidities seem to be at slightly higher risk of having more severe COVID-19 symptoms. For this reason, it is important to be vaccinated if possible, take extra care to practice social distancing and ensure everyone in the household maintains good personal hygiene.

If my child is receiving immunosuppressive medical treatment, are they more at risk of severe COVID-19?
Immunocompromised children are more at risk of experiencing severe symptoms if they contract a respiratory infection. For this reason, it is important to be vaccinated if possible, to take extra care to practice social distancing and ensure everyone in the household maintains good personal hygiene.

If my child has had pneumonia before, are they more at risk of severe COVID-19?
If your child has previously been treated for, or hospitalised for pneumonia, the lungs usually recovers completely. Childhood is a period of massive growth of new lung tissue, and if the infection has entirely cleared up they should not be at a significantly greater risk than otherwise healthy children.

If my child has asthma, are they more at risk of severe COVID-19?
Any disease that reduces lung function confers increased risk during a respiratory infection. Ensure you have an adequate supply of your child’s asthma medications and follow prevention and treatment schedules. For this reason, it is important to be vaccinated if possible, take extra care to practice social distancing and ensure everyone in the household maintains good personal hygiene. If your child is experiencing breathing difficulties see your family doctor or call an ambulance.

Read more on asthma and COVID-19 from respiratory physician Dr Danielle Wurzel (article published May 8 2020).

Are infants more at risk of severe COVID-19?
Overall, COVID-19 in children is mild. Infants might be at higher risk of severe illness with COVID-19 than older children. This is likely due to their undeveloped immune systems and smaller airways, which make them more likely to develop breathing issues with respiratory virus infections.

COVID-19, Pregnancy and Newborn Health

Can COVID-19 affect newborns and how?
Newborns and infants are at slightly higher risk than older children, but this is still very low compared to elderly people. Newborn infections overseas have generally been through an infected parent or hospital worker, so ensure you continue to maintain good personal and hand hygiene at all times when around newborns.

If I am pregnant and get COVID-19, will it be passed on to my child?
It is extremely unlikely you can pass COVID-19 to your foetus during pregnancy; however it is possible. If you are infected while pregnant, your maternal health team will monitor your health and the foetus' health with extra vigilance to ensure the best outcomes.

Preventing COVID-19

What is the best way to protect my child from getting COVID-19?
If your child is eligible to receive a vaccine, vaccination is the best way to protect your child from getting COVID-19. COVID-19 vaccination will not only help protect people from getting COVID-19, but will also reduce their likelihood of having severe symptoms if they do get COVID-19. While children generally show only mild symptoms, it is important to try to avoid infection to minimise any risk. If your child is unable to receive a vaccine yet, ensuring the rest of the household is vaccinated is a great way to protect them. It is also important to practice social distancing and ensure everyone in the household maintains good personal hygiene.

Can children get a COVID-19 vaccination?
Everyone in Australia aged 12 years and over can receive a free COVID-19 vaccination. Children aged 5-11 years are expected to be able to access the Pfizer for children COVID-19 vaccine from January 2022. Vaccine trials are still underway in children under 5 years to determine if they are safe and effective.

What are common side effects of COVID-19 vaccination in children?
Children and adults may have some side effects from the vaccine, which are normal. Common side effects of vaccination include pain, redness, or swelling at the injection site; tiredness, headache, muscle pain, chills, fever and nausea. Side effects after the second shot may be more intense than the ones experienced after the first shot, but they are normal and should go away in a few days. You should call your doctor if any side effects are worrying or do not seem to be going away after a few days.

What is the risk of myocarditis in children after COVID-19 vaccination?
Rarely, cases of myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle) and pericarditis (inflammation of the outer lining of the heart) in adolescents and young adults have been reported after vaccination. These are more common: after the second dose, in males adolescents and young adults, within one week after vaccination. Most patients with myocarditis or pericarditis who received care felt better quickly. Find out more.

My child has COVID-19 – what next?

If my child does get COVID-19, how do I look after them at home?
Take care of your child as you would with any other respiratory illness. You should also monitor your child’s symptoms, and in the rare chance they have more severe symptoms like shortness of breath, take them to hospital.

How is COVID-19 treated?
There is no specific treatment for COVID-19. If your child is diagnosed with COVID-19 and is uncomfortable, you may treat them as you would with any cold or flu. Find out more.

If my child does get COVID-19, how do I avoid the rest of the family getting sick?
To avoid infecting each other, it is a good idea to wipe down common surfaces frequently with an alcohol based sanitiser or soap and water, wash hands often and well, use separate toilets where possible and sleep in a separate room.

If a child does get COVID-19, are there any lasting negative health impacts on them?
Luckily COVID-19 appears to only rarely produce severe symptoms in children, and they also recover quickly. Some early data, looking at the long-term effects of COVID-19 in children, shows that long-term symptoms of COVID-19 (lasting more than 4-6 weeks) for children are rare.

Should I be worried about the inflammatory syndrome, PIMS-TS, if my child becomes unwell with COVID-19?
PIMS-TS (Paediatric Inflammatory Multisystem Syndrome Temporally associated with SARS-COV-2) is a rare condition that can occur a few weeks after COVID-19 infection. The risk for an individual child is extremely low, but in a very small number of cases, it can be serious. Common symptoms of PIMS-TS are: fever, abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhoea, rash, irritability, and red eyes.

Be as vigilant as you normally would be in the event of a sudden severe illness. The most important thing is to remember that any child who is seriously unwell needs to be treated quickly – whatever the illness.

General Questions

How will I know if my child has COVID-19?
The only way to know your child has COVID-19 is to receive a diagnosis after a COVID-19 test. You can get a regular test at any testing site, to determine whether your child has COVID-19. If you are in Victoria, you can use the Victorian Department of Health Website to find your local testing site. Rapid tests are also available, which can be purchased from chemists.

What do I do if I suspect my child has COVID-19?
If symptoms are mild, visit a Respiratory Infection clinic in your area. If symptoms are severe, such as your child having difficulty breathing, call an ambulance immediately.

Is it safe for us to visit a grandparent at this time?
Visiting grandparents does involve an element of risk, given they have a higher risk of experiencing more severe symptoms if they do become infected. Vaccinating those who are eligible is a great way to protect your grandparents from getting sick.