Health Department

Fairfax County, Virginia

CONTACT INFORMATION: Our administration office at 10777 Main Street in Fairfax is open during regular business hours 8 a.m. - 4:30 p.m., Monday - Friday. Clinic services are not offered at this location.

703-267-3511
TTY 711

10777 Main Street
Fairfax, VA 22030

Gloria Addo-Ayensu, M.D., M.P.H.,
Director of Health

COVID-19 and Children

COVID-19 is a new disease that we are still learning more about it each day, including how it affects children and the role they may play in spreading the virus.  

While fewer children have been sick with COVID-19 compared to adults, children can be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19, can get sick from COVID-19, and can spread the virus that causes COVID-19 to others.

On this Page

Symptoms and Infection
Severe Illness Among Children
What Parents and Caregivers Can Do
Social, Emotional, and Mental Health
Related Topics

 

icon of person coughingSymptoms and Infection

Children have similar symptoms of COVID-19 as adults. Symptoms are frequently mild and may appear similar to colds, strep throat or allergies. The most frequent symptoms are fever or cough. Compared with adults, children may be more likely to show symptoms of vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain (stomachache) and other gastrointestinal problems. 

Research has shown that many children, up to 21 years old, do not show any symptoms at all. This is called being asymptomatic. Children, like adults, who have COVID-19 but have no symptoms can still spread the virus to others. There is evidence that children can spread the virus effectively in household, school and camp settings.

The American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association review and share publicly available data related to COVID-19 cases and testing in children. 

person with fever iconSevere Illness Among Children

While most reported cases in children are either asymptomatic or mild, there have been cases of severe illness and some children do need to be hospitalized. Additionally, there have been some deaths reported in those younger than 21 years.

Infants (under age 1) and children with underlying medical conditions may be at increased risk for severe illness.  These conditions might include, but are not limited to: 

  • Obesity
  • Medical complexity
  • Severe genetic disorders
  • Severe neurologic disorders
  • Inherited metabolic disorders
  • Congenital (since birth) heart disease
  • Diabetes
  • Asthma and other chronic lung disease
  • Immunosuppression due to malignancy or immune-weakening medications. 

It is important to note that current evidence on which underlying medical conditions in children are associated with increased risk is limited. Therefore, this list is not exhaustive and only includes conditions with sufficient evidence to draw conclusions. More information and updates for people with certain medical conditions is available from the CDC. 

In spring 2020, doctors recognized a severe syndrome in children, many of whom had evidence of recent COVID-19 infection. This illness, called Multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C), is a condition where different body parts can become inflamed, including the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes or gastrointestinal organs. MIS-C can be serious, even deadly, but most children who were diagnosed with this condition got better with medical care. It is not yet known who is at increased risk for developing MIS-C.

If your child is showing symptoms of MIS-C contact your child’s doctor, nurse or clinic, and seek emergency care right away if your child is showing any emergency warning signs.

Emergency Warning Signs

If someone is showing any of these emergency warning signs, seek emergency medical care immediately:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
  • New confusion
  • Inability to wake or stay awake
  • Bluish lips or face
  • Severe abdominal pain

Please call your medical provider for any other symptoms that are severe or concerning.

parent and child iconWhat Parents and Caregivers Can Do 

As we continue to learn more about how COVID-19 affects children, it is important to not let our guards down. Here are some steps parents can take.

 

Take Preventative Actions

Parents should continue to remind children to take simple steps to avoid getting and spreading COVID-19 such as:

  • Frequently washing their hands with soap and water for 20 seconds.
  • Keeping at least 6 feet between them and people outside of their household. This may mean limiting in-person play time.
  • Wearing a face covering if over 2 years. If your child has difficulty wearing a face covering, learn more about what you can do.
  • Avoiding people who are sick.
  • Staying home when sick, even if it is just a runny nose.  

Limit your child’s interaction with people at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19. This may mean reconsidering who provides childcare or postponing a visit with grandparents or other family members.

Monitor Your Child for Symptoms 

Keep your child home if your child has symptoms or has been exposed to COVID-19

  • Keep your child home if they have symptoms of COVID-19 or if they have been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19. Close contacts are people who have been within six feet of someone who has COVID-19 for at least 15 minutes during the time they could have spread infection.
  • Call your child’s healthcare provider to discuss whether your child needs to be evaluated or tested for COVID-19. Learn more about testing in Fairfax
  • Keep track of who your child comes into close contact with because someone from the Health Department may call you. Answer the call and follow the guidance. Learn more about contact tracing.  

Take precautions if anyone in your house has COVID-19

  • If you or someone else in your home is sick, take steps to prevent your child from getting sick too. See the CDC guidance. 
  • If your child is sick, take steps to prevent getting sick while you care for them. See the CDC guidance.

Is my child well enough to go to school?

Keep your child safe & keep the community healthy. See the guidance to help you tell if your child should go to school or child care.

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Wellbeing iconSocial, Emotional, and Mental Health

We recognize that the pandemic can affect more than your child’s physical health, but can also impact social, emotional, and mental well-being. Here are three things that you can do to help your child: 

 

Stay active

Regular physical activity can improve your child’s physical and mental health. Learn more about how much physical activity your child should get daily.

Stay socially connected

Socializing and interacting with peers can be a healthy way for children to cope with stress and connect with others. However, the key to slowing the spread of COVID-19 is to limit close contact with others as much as possible. Phone calls or video chats with friends and family is one way to maintain social connections.

Remember the more people you physically interact with, and the longer that interaction, the higher the risk of COVID-19 spread. Learn more about assessing COVID-19 risks. 

For playdates, the risk of COVID-19 increases as follows:
  • Lowest risk: No in-person playdates. Children connect virtually (via phone calls and video chats).
  • Medium risk: Infrequent playdates with the same family or friend who is also practicing everyday preventive measures. Children maintain a distance of at least 6 feet from each other during the playdate. Playdates are held outdoors. 
  • Highest Risk: Frequent indoor playdates with multiple friends or families who are not practicing everyday preventive measures. Children do not maintain a distance of 6 feet from each other.

Cope with stress

The COVID-19 pandemic can be stressful for both adults and children. Learn more about signs of stress in children, ways to support your child, and how to take care of your own mental health.

Find wellness resources for the Fairfax community.

The CDC offers a COVID-19 Parental Resources Kit that offers resources and strategies different age groups to help cope with the pandemic. 

Fairfax Virtual Assistant