Skip to main content

Bright Futures

Articles and Updates from Phoenix Children's

August 26, 2021
I’m a Pediatric Hospitalist: Here’s What I Want You to Know About COVID-19 and Kids
I’m a Pediatric Hospitalist: Here’s What I Want You to Know About COVID-19 and Kids

By Reina Patel, DO, a pediatric hospitalist at Phoenix Children’s Hospital

For a year-and-a-half, the COVID-19 pandemic has been a challenge here in the U.S. and worldwide. While it’s generally true that children made up a small percentage of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. last year, lately we’ve seen a rising number of previously healthy, unvaccinated kids with COVID-19 included those infected by the Delta variant.

COVID-19 is often discussed in adults and adolescents, but this a reminder that healthy young children, ranging from 1 month to toddler to school-age, can get COVID-19 and potentially get very sick.

Kids aren’t immune to COVID-19

The risk is not zero; kids can still get sick. And when that sick child is your child, statistics go out the window. Your child will need to see their primary health care professionals, and maybe even require a visit to the Emergency Department or need intensive care treatment.

As healthcare professionals, we are here to protect all children. The health and wellbeing of our community and our families is our highest priority. We want to provide you with the most current information so you can best protect them.

As a pediatric hospitalist, here’s what I want parents to know about COVID-19 and kids.

How can I help protect my child from COVID-19?

Here are some things you can practice together with your child to help limit and slow the spread of COVID-19:

  1. Wear a mask indoors and in large outdoor crowds. It’s important to not only teach your child about the importance of wearing a mask but also how to wear it properly by covering their mouth and nose. Masks are an essential addition in curbing the spread of COVID-19, especially with the Delta variant being more transmissible. Here are some tips to help your child:
  • Choose a mask with at least two layers, that fits their face properly and stays in place.
  • Model good behavior by wearing your mask as well. Even when vaccinated, you can still be at risk for breakthrough infections.
  • For younger children, reward them with stickers for keeping their mask on indoors or in school.
  1. Wash your hands. Handwashing is one of the most effective methods of infection prevention. Check out these helpful tips for handwashing.
  2. Play outdoors. For now, outdoor activities with friends are preferred. In situations where your child is unable to physically distance or is indoors, they should wear a mask, especially in areas of substantial-high COVID-19 transmission. If your child is sitting next to another child within close proximity, even if outdoors, they should wear a mask as well.
  3. Stay home when sick. Limit the spread of germs and viruses and keep your child home when they don’t feel well. Monitor them every morning before going to school to see how they are doing and feeling.
  4. Get vaccinated. Getting vaccinated as soon as it’s made available to you is an essential part of putting the pandemic behind us.  

What are the symptoms or signs of COVID-19 in children?

While not every child who’s exposed to COVID-19 or the Delta variant may develop symptoms (asymptomatic), those who do, typically show symptoms approximately 2 to 14 days following exposure.

Symptoms for mild cases may include:

  • Cough
  • Congestion
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Fatigue
  • Headache

Children with mild or no symptoms may seem to get over COVID-19 very quickly, but some can potentially develop Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C) or long haul COVID-19. Long haul COVID-19 includes children who are experiencing a variety of symptoms for weeks to months after diagnosis.

It’s important to stay in touch with your child’s health care provider after a COVID-19 diagnosis to monitor symptoms. If your child starts having trouble breathing, fever, chest pain or abdominal pain or headaches, this could be related to their COVID-19 diagnosis or something new that is occurring.

Complications for severe cases may include:

  • Difficulty breathing to the point of respiratory failure – requiring high levels of oxygen
  • Kidney failure requiring dialysis
  • Heart failure requiring ECMO heart/lung bypass machine
  • Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C), a syndrome that affects organs in the body.

Sometimes kids are sick enough to be in the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU), and they are there for weeks or longer and then require inpatient rehabilitation to relearn how to walk, eat and perform other basic skills and gain their strength back.

Where should you go to have your child tested for COVID-19

COVID-19 testing is available through your child’s health care provider, many pharmacies, clinics and off-site testing centers.

Where should you go for your child’s care and treatment?

When it comes to deciding on where to take your child for treatment, consider your child’s symptoms.

If they are experiencing the following symptoms, you should call 911 and get them to the Emergency Department as soon as possible:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Lips or face turning blue
  • Altered mental state
  • Lethargic and unresponsive

If your child is experiencing the following mild symptoms, have them evaluated and tested by their health care provider:

  • Mild nasal congestion and cough
  • Ear pain
  • Sore throat
  • Mild vomiting or diarrhea

Pediatrician offices are your medical homes. They are there to discuss any questions or concerns you have regarding your child’s health and wellbeing. Many pediatric offices have after-hours advice lines. To reach a Phoenix Children’s Pediatrics provider after hours, contact  the after-hours advice line.

Bottom Line

The COVID-19 vaccine is safe and effective. It is designed to prevent hospitalization and death due to COVID-19, and it’s effective in doing that. Getting vaccinated as soon as it’s made available to you is essential in putting the pandemic behind us. Until children under 12 are eligible for a COVID-19 vaccination, it’s important to be vigilant. Continue to mask in public, wash your hands and stay home when sick. If you ever have questions or concerns, make sure you reach out to your child’s health care provider.

Visit our COVID-19 Resource Center for ongoing and updated information regarding Phoenix Children’s and COVID-19.

Share this page