Caring for children
Children can be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 and can get sick with COVID-19. Most children with COVID-19 have mild symptoms or they may have no symptoms at all (“asymptomatic”). Fewer children have been sick with COVID-19 compared to adults. However, children with certain underlying medical conditions and infants (less than 1 year old) might be at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19. Some children have developed a rare but serious disease that is linked to COVID-19 called multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MIS-C).
For more information about how people get sick with the virus that causes COVID-19, see How COVID-19 Spreads.
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. We do not yet know what causes MIS-C. However, we know that many children with MIS-C had the virus that causes COVID-19, or had been around someone with COVID-19. MIS-C can be serious, even deadly, but most children who were diagnosed with this condition have gotten better with medical care.
Contact your child’s doctor, nurse, or clinic right away if your child is showing symptoms of MIS-C. Seek emergency care right away if your child is showing any of these emergency warning signs of MIS-C or other concerning signs.
People of any age who have certain underlying medical conditions might be at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19. In addition to following the recommendations to prevent getting sick, families can take steps recommended for children with underlying conditions.
Consider identifying potential alternative caregivers, in case you or other regular caregivers become sick and are unable to care for your child. If possible, these alternative caregivers should not be at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19 themselves. For more information, see Sick Parents and Caregivers. Make sure these caregivers take extra precautions if your child has a disability.
If your child receives any support care services in the home, such as services from personal care attendants, direct support professionals, or therapists, make plans for what you will do if your child’s direct care providers or anyone in your family gets sick. You can review CDC’s recommendations for Direct Service Providers.
Children may worry about themselves, their family, and friends getting ill with COVID-19. Parents play an important role in helping children make sense of what they hear in a way that is honest, accurate, and minimizes anxiety or fear. CDC has created guidance to help adults have conversations with children about COVID-19 and ways they can avoid getting and spreading the disease.
The COVID-19 pandemic, and the fear and isolation that often come with it, can be overwhelming to adults and children. You may worry about your health or financial situation, and may experience changes in sleep or eating patterns, worsening of health problems, including mental health problems, or increased substance use.
Finding a healthy way to cope with stress will make you and the people you care about, stronger. Some of the best ways to cope with stress are:
- Know what to do and who to contact if you get sick.
- Take care of your emotional health.
- Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories.
- Exercise regularly, eat healthy meals, and get plenty of sleep.
- Connect with others in a safe way.
More information on how people react to stress, how to copy with stress and anxiety, and what to do in an emergency is available from the CDC at Coping with Stress.
In general, children 2 years and older should wear a mask. Masks offer some protection to you and are also meant to protect those around you, in case you are unknowingly infected with the virus that causes COVID-19. However, CDC recognizes that wearing masks may not be possible in every situation or for some people. Appropriate and consistent use of masks may be challenging for some children, such as children with certain disabilities, including cognitive, intellectual, developmental, sensory and behavioral disorders. Learn more about what you should do if your child or you cannot wear masks in certain situations.
It may be possible that people can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this isn’t thought to be the main way the virus spreads. CDC recommends cleaning and disinfection of frequently touched surfaces and frequent handwashing or the use of hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol as best practice measures for prevention of COVID-19 and other viral respiratory illnesses.
Some cleaning and disinfection products are not recommended for use on car seats and booster seats. Owners should follow the manufacturer’s cleaning instructions for their car seats and booster seats. Motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of death for children in the United States. Always buckle children in age- and size-appropriate car seats, booster seats, and seat belts when riding in a vehicle.
Many parents, caregivers, and guardians face new and difficult choices about how their child will return to school in the fall, such as deciding between in-person and virtual learning.
Choosing whether or not to send your child back to school can be difficult. When weighing decisions about your child returning to school, it is important to consider your family’s unique needs and situation and your comfort level with the steps your school is taking to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
To help you and your family decide, the Back to School Decision Making Tool (PDF) can help you work through your preferences and needs.
Resources for parents, caregivers and guardians:
Going back to school this fall will require schools and families to work together even more than before.
Schools will be making changes to their policies and operations with several goals:
- Supporting learning;
- Providing important services, such as school meals, extended daycare, extracurricular activities, and social services; and
- Limiting the transmission of COVID-19.
Likewise, it will be important for families to emphasize and model healthy behaviors at home and to talk to your children about changes to expect this school year. Even if your child will attend school in-person, it is important to prepare for the possibility of virtual learning if school closes or if your child becomes exposed to COVID-19 and needs to stay home.
CDC has created a checklist (PDF) to help with back to school planning for school year 2020-2021. If your school uses a hybrid model, you may want to review both the in-person and virtual/at-home learning checklists.
Back to school resources:
We learn more about COVID-19 every day. As more information becomes available, CDC will continue to update and share information. As our knowledge and understanding of COVID-19 evolves, this guidance may change. Based on the best available evidence at this time:
- CDC does not currently recommend universal symptom screenings (screening all students grades K-12) be conducted by schools.
- Parents or caregivers should be strongly encouraged to monitor their children for signs of infectious illness every day.
- Students who are sick should not attend school in-person.
Here are a few things to check or consider: Secure your router, update your software, and use strong passwords and two factor authentication (when available). Also, don’t let your kids watch pirated content. Hackers are using illegal pirated content as a way in to your devices and wireless network.
- Breast milk provides protection against many illnesses and is the best source of nutrition for most infants.
- You, along with your family and healthcare providers, should decide whether and how to start or continue breastfeeding.
- In limited studies, COVID-19 has not been detected in breast milk; however we do not know for sure whether mothers with COVID-19 can spread the virus via breast milk.
- If you are sick and choose to direct breastfeed:
- Wear a mask and wash your hands before each feeding.
- If the you are sick and choose to express breast milk:
- Express breast milk to establish and maintain milk supply.
- A dedicated breast pump should be provided.
- Wash hands before touching any pump or bottle parts and before expressing breast milk.
- Follow recommendations for proper pump cleaning (Español) after each use, cleaning all parts that come into contact with breast milk.
- If possible, consider having someone who is well feed the expressed breast milk to the infant.
No. The key to slowing the spread of COVID-19 is to practice social distancing. While school is out, children should not have in-person playdates with children from other households. If children are playing outside their own homes, it is essential that they remain 6 feet from anyone who is not in their own household.
Make sure children practice everyday preventive behaviors, such as washing their hands often with soap and water. Remember, if children meet outside of school in groups, it can put everyone at risk.
For more information, see Help Stop the Spread of COVID-19 in Children.
- If you live with people at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19, consider separating your child from them if your child has frequent interactions with those outside the household (like at schools or other settings).
- Consider postponing visits or trips to see grandparents, older family members, or family members with underlying medical conditions while there are high levels of transmission (or high number of COVID-19 cases) in your community.
- If your child does visit someone who is older or has an underlying medical condition that puts them at risk of severe illness, your child should stay at least 6 feet away from that person. If your child is 2 years or older, he or she should also wear a mask.
- Take steps to help protect your child from COVID-19 in order to reduce the risk of your child spreading the virus that causes COVID-19 to others especially people at increased risk of severe illness.