COVID-19 Symptoms in Kids

Children of all ages can get COVID-19, including babies and toddlers. COVID-19 symptoms in kids are similar to those of adults — such as fever, cough and difficulty breathing. Symptoms are generally milder in young people, but the same quarantine precautions should be taken to prevent the spread.


What are COVID-19 symptoms in kids?

In most cases, COVID-19 symptoms in kids are milder than the symptoms experienced by adults with the virus. Sometimes, infected children show no signs of being sick at all. Possible symptoms of COVID-19 infection in children include:

Even though most children who become infected don’t experience severe COVID symptoms, some may develop a condition called multisystem inflammatory syndrome. Left untreated, this condition can cause serious health problems.


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What is multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children and how does it relate to COVID-19?

Multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C) is characterized by inflammation in various parts of the body, including the heart, kidneys, lungs, eyes, skin, brain or gastrointestinal organs. Recent research has shown that children between the ages of 2 and 15 who are infected with COVID-19 may develop MIS-C. On average, this occurs about two to six weeks after the child is exposed to coronavirus. Possible symptoms of MIS-C include:

Without treatment, MIS-C can be life-limiting. However, with prompt medical care, most children fully recover. If your child shows any of the symptoms listed above, call your healthcare provider right away.

Can babies and toddlers get COVID?

Yes. COVID-19 cases have been on the rise among children of all ages, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. This is likely due to a combination of factors. First, many children have yet to be vaccinated. In fact, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) just approved the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for use in children down to age 5 in November 2021. Second, the highly contagious delta variant has been widespread in recent months. Infants under the age of 1 may have a higher risk of severe COVID-19 symptoms compared to older children. This may be due to their smaller airways and immature immune systems.


Can newborns get COVID?

Yes. People with COVID-19 can potentially pass it on to their babies. Infants can also become infected shortly after delivery. Most newborns who test positive for COVID have no symptoms or very mild symptoms, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (Note:_ _Pregnant people are more likely to develop severe COVID-19 symptoms. They’re also more likely to deliver their baby early. If you’re pregnant, talk to your healthcare provider about ways to reduce your risk for coronavirus, such as taking the COVID vaccine.)

Are kids carriers of COVID?

Yes, absolutely. Babies, toddlers and children can spread COVID to others, even if they don’t have any symptoms.


Possible Causes

Why do children react to COVID differently than adults?

Experts aren’t yet sure why children aren’t as severely affected by COVID-19. One theory is that children’s immune systems are already primed to fight against COVID-19. (There are other coronaviruses that spread and cause conditions like the common cold. Because children often catch colds, they may be better protected against COVID-19.) Another theory is that children’s immune systems simply respond differently to the virus.

Care and Treatment

How should COVID symptoms in kids be handled?

If your child develops a fever, cough, sore throat, difficulty breathing or other COVID-19 symptoms, call your healthcare provider immediately. They may recommend testing your child with a home kit, or they may ask you to come into their office for a visit. You may also be able to schedule a telehealth appointment with your provider. Be sure to keep your child and everyone in your household at home until testing is completed.

What if my child tests positive for COVID-19?

If your child tests positive for COVID, then you should take all proper precautions to protect your family and others in your community. Your child should remain in isolation for 10 days from the time that symptoms first appeared. They should also be fever-free for at least 24 hours. In the meantime:

  • Keep other people in the house away from your child as much as possible.
  • If possible, designate one person to take care of your child so that others aren’t exposed.
  • The caregiver should wear a mask when in the same room as your sick child.
  • If your child is over the age of 2 and can comfortably wear a mask, have them wear one whenever the caregiver is in the room.
  • Wipe the bathroom down often to reduce COVID transmission. If possible, have your child use a different bathroom than everyone else.
  • Every day, disinfect light switches, doorknobs, phones, remotes and any other objects that are touched frequently.

Can I prevent my child from getting COVID-19?

The best defense to prevent getting COVID-19 is to get vaccinated. If your child is age 5 or older, they're eligible for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID vaccine. Ask your healthcare provider where to take your child for their vaccination. You should also follow all recommended CDC guidelines, including handwashing, masking and social distancing.

When To Call the Doctor

When should I call my child’s healthcare provider?

Tell your healthcare provider if your child has been exposed to someone who tested positive for COVID-19. If your child develops symptoms such as fever, cough, difficulty breathing, sore throat, abdominal pain, vomiting, rash or other COVID warning signs, call your provider immediately.

Additional Common Questions

How many children have the coronavirus?

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, 5,899,148 childhood cases of COVID-19 were reported between the onset of the pandemic and September 30th, 2021. This means that 7,838 out of every 100,000 children tested positive for the virus.

How long does COVID last in kids?

Every child is different. Most kids who are symptomatic recover in about two weeks. But keep in mind that many children never show symptoms, even if they’re infected with the virus.

A note from Cleveland Clinic

COVID-19 symptoms in kids can include fever, vomiting, difficulty breathing and more. Even though many children don’t have symptoms, they can still be carriers of the virus. So, it’s important to follow all recommended guidelines to keep your family and your community safe.

Medically Reviewed

Last reviewed on 11/15/2021.

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