COVID-19- Packing bags for families

Questions about the impact of COVID-19 on children, answered

If you are a parent, sponsor or are worried about the impact of the new coronavirus on children then these questions and answers are for you.  For a more general set of FAQs on COVID-19, please see this site

What is the impact of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) on children?

The good news is that so far children seem to be resilient to the worst effects of the virus.  Studies have so far found that children accounted for anywhere between two and 13% of all infections. Research is still evolving and these figures may change.  A study of 72,000 cases in China found not a single child death among the 1,023 deaths recorded at the time. Very few hospitalisations were also recorded. The medical community is still unsure about why children seem to fare better when they have the virus.  They may simply be fitter and more able to fight infection and recover. 

What are the symptoms that a child is likely to experience?

Children typically have mild symptoms such as a fever, runny nose or cough. These are similar to common seasonal influenza or the common cold. A test is needed to confirm if someone has COVID-19. If you suspect that your child may have the virus, follow local health authority guidance on how to go about getting a test and -- until the test is done -- try to keep your child from potentially infecting others who may be at greater risk from the disease (including older adults).  Consider calling your health care provider if your child, you or a close contact has travelled from an area affected by COVID-19. Many countries are asking people to call ahead before taking a child or adult to a health clinic who has symptoms of COVID-19.

What do I need to keep children safe?

Frequent handwashing with soap or sanitizer and good respiratory hygiene (coughing or sneezing into one’s flexed elbow or a tissue, then throwing away the tissue into a closed bin) are the most important things children, just like adults, should do. Help your children get into a regular habit of washing their hands. Setting an alarm on their phone or watch and encouraging children to wash their hands every time they come indoors, get off the school bus and every time a school break finishes, are some ways of encouraging this.  

How is COVID-19 spread?

The virus is spread via respiratory droplets from an infected person.  Sneezing and coughing can spread the droplets directly to others or they fall on surfaces that are then touched. The virus may remain alive for several hours. Children and adults often touch their faces several times an hour, so the virus can easily be passed from hand to mouth, nose or eyes.  Toys, countertops, handles, touch screens, doorknobs, and other items that children touch can be disinfected regularly to help prevent transmission of the virus.

Is it dangerous for my child to be in a crowded place or at school?

Studies show that the risk to children following COVID-19 infection is very low. However, the government or health authorities may advise against anyone - including children - from attending large events.  They may also close schools. This is not because there is a significant risk to children but because children might potentially become infected and carry the virus home or into their communities. This would then put the more vulnerable, such as the elderly or those with pre-existing chronic health conditions at greater risk and increase the speed at which the infection spreads.

Should I take my child out of school?

The local or public health authority will determine if schools are to be closed. If not, then it is best to keep children in school, unless they are displaying flu-like symptoms.  In this case, seek medical advice. 

Should I travel with my children? 

Before traveling, check on travel advisories for destination countries.  Travel information is constantly changing and countries may bar entry or require quarantine periods and your return country may restrict re-entry or require a longer quarantine upon re-entry. 

While traveling, try to keep children healthy by employing good hygiene practices. Avoid close contact with passengers displaying respiratory symptoms, ensure children wash their hands frequently with soap or sanitizer and clean surfaces, such as aircraft tables, armrests and hotel doorknobs with a disinfecting wipe. Guardians should carry a hand sanitizer, a pack of tissues and disinfecting wipes.

Can pregnant women pass coronavirus to unborn children? 

There is currently not enough evidence to determine whether the virus is transmitted from a mother to her baby during pregnancy or the potential impact this may have on the baby. This is currently being investigated. Pregnant women should continue to follow the appropriate precautions.

Is it safe for a mother to breastfeed if she is infected with coronavirus?

All mothers in affected and at-risk areas who have symptoms of fever, cough or difficulty breathing, should seek medical care early and follow instructions from a health care provider. 

Considering the substantial benefits of breastfeeding and the small role of breastmilk in the transmission of other respiratory viruses, the mother can continue breastfeeding, while applying all the necessary precautions.

Mothers with COVID-19 symptoms should also wear a mask when near a child, wash hands before and after contact with the child and clean/disinfect contaminated surfaces – as should be done in all cases where anyone with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 interacts with others, including children.  

Are sponsored children safe?

World Vision is working across the globe to keep children safe. In Asia, communities that World Vision partners with have received health promotion messages while health partners have been given protective equipment.  We are monitoring the outbreak globally and are working closely with government ministries and local health partners to keep children safe.

How can I keep my children from getting upset and stressed by what they are seeing?

Help children find positive ways to express feelings such as fear or sadness. A creative activity, such as playing and drawing can help, although every child is different. Children are more likely to communicate feelings in a safe and supportive environment. Having parents and loved ones around can help children feel secure. 

Avoid separating children from those they feel close to.  If a child needs to be separated then proper alternative care needs to be provided. Parents and other caregivers can also ease the burden of separation by phoning or using social media and video calling several times a day.

Maintaining a familiar routine, especially if the child is at home and encouraging socialisation with others in the family who are not displaying symptoms of COVID-19 also creates a sense of security and normalcy.

When children are stressed they typically seek more attachment and are more demanding, so spend time with your child trying to understand their concerns and addressing them in ways that are age-appropriate.