COVID-19 - Caring For A Child With COVID-19

COVID-19 - Caring For A Child With COVID-19

If your child has COVID-19, it can be a worrying time for you. But most children with COVID-19 will have a mild illness. Find out about how to care for your child at home and when to see a doctor.

Caring for your child with COVID-19

The video above is aimed at caregivers of children who have been to the Starship Children's Emergency Department but it is relevant to caregivers of children throughout Aotearoa New Zealand.

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My child is sick - could it be COVID-19?

Symptoms of COVID-19

If children do catch COVID-19, they mostly have mild symptoms or they may have no symptoms at all.

Common symptoms of COVID-19 are like those found with other illnesses such as colds and flu.

They can include:

  • cough
  • sneezing and runny nose
  • fever
  • headache
  • tiredness, feeling generally unwell
  • sore, scratchy throat
  • shortness of breath

Symptoms of COVID-19 may also include:

  • diarrhoea, nausea, vomiting, particularly in babies and young children
  • tummy pain
  • muscle aches
  • wheezing
  • croup-like illness
  • loss of taste or smell (not so common with Omicron)

What if my child is COVID-19 positive?

If your child is COVID-19 positive, watch the video above for advice. Some of the information in the video is also repeated below.

Make sure they are drinking well

It is important to keep an eye on what your child is eating and drinking. They might not want to eat as much as usual.

Encourage them to drink fluids - you can try giving them half apple juice with half water or ice blocks if they are struggling to get fluids in.

How to help your child with COVID-19

COVID-19 is viral so antibiotics don't work. For children who are usually well and have a mild infection, there is no specific treatment for COVID-19.

If they are well and happy with a fever, they do not need specific treatment.

To treat a fever, undress your child so they are just wearing a single layer and make sure the room is not too hot or too cold. These are the best and most comfortable ways to bring your child's temperature down. It's best not to give your child a bath or shower to cool them. You could use a cool face cloth.

Your child may need extra rest or they may want to play - this is OK.

Medicine

Paracetamol

If your child is miserable because of the fever, you can give paracetamol to make them more comfortable. You must follow the dosage instructions on the bottle. It is dangerous to give more than the recommended dose.

Other medicine

If your doctor gives your child ibuprofen, use it only if your child with a fever is miserable.

Don't give your child cold and flu medicines.

Never give your child aspirin as this may increase the risk of Reye syndrome, which is a rare and serious illness.

Advice from a paediatric emergency medicine doctor at Starship

Listen to an interview with Dr Mike Shepherd, a specialist in Paediatric Emergency Medicine at Starship. He joins Jesse Mulligan on RNZ to talk about what to do if a young child catches COVID-19 as well as ways to protect them when they are too young for a vaccine.

You can also watch a Stuff video - Dr Mike Shepherd talks COVID-19 Omicron symptoms in children: what can be managed at home, what parents should seek help with.

Detailed advice about caring for your child with COVID-19

You can also check the information at the Health Navigator website about how to care for your child if they get COVID-19.

Read more about self isolating with children

How can I minimise spread of COVID-19 within my household?

It is common for COVID-19 to spread within a household to family and whānau members.

There are some things you can do to help minimise the spread:

  • wear masks - if your child is comfortable wearing a mask this will help reduce the virus spreading
  • create airflow (ventilate)
  • regular handwashing
  • use hand sanitiser

Find out how wearing masks and creating airflow help protect against COVID-19

When should I seek help for my child with COVID-19?

Contact your GP or go to the emergency department if your child becomes more unwell or:

  • has difficulty breathing
  • is drinking less than half their normal amount of fluids
  • is very tired or lethargic
  • still has a fever after 5 days
  • has severe chest or tummy pain or
  • has a headache that is not helped by simple pain relief
  • you are worried about them

Check the signs that show your child is struggling to breathe

If your child becomes very unwell, call an ambulance by dialling 111 within New Zealand (use the appropriate emergency number in other countries) and ask for urgent medical help.

If your child is unwell but does not have COVID-19, you could check some content on KidsHealth.

Check childhood illness - the basics

How can I support my child recovering from COVID?

For most children with mild COVID, they will be back to normal within a week. A small number of children might take up to 2 weeks to feel back to normal.

Make sure your child gets enough sleep.

Encourage them to eat and drink normally. 

You don't need to restrict your child from doing activities they feel like doing. Be guided by them.

Your child can go back to their early childhood centre or school 7 days after testing positive - depending on when other household members test positive. 

See more information about testing positive and self-isolating

More KidsHealth content on COVID-19

See KidsHealth's section on COVID-19

See all KidsHealth's content on COVID-19 immunisation in children

This page last reviewed 02 March 2022.

Call Healthline on 0800 611 116 any time of the day or night for free health advice when you need it