• COVID-19 is a viral respiratory infection. It may be widespread in your community.

  • Because it can be serious, you don't want your family to catch it.

  • Here are some tips on how to protect your family.

  • Updated: December 4, 2020

  • COVID-19 is spread from person to person.

  • The virus spreads from respiratory droplets produced when a person coughs, sneezes, shouts or sings. The infected droplets can then be inhaled by a nearby person or land on the surface of their face or eyes.

  • Most infected people also have respiratory secretions on their hands. These secretions get transferred to healthy people on doorknobs, faucet handles etc. The virus then gets transferred to healthy people when they touch their face or rub their eyes.

  • These methods are how most respiratory viruses spread.

  • COVID-19 Symptoms: The most common symptoms are cough and fever. Some patients progress to chills, shivering (shaking), sore throat, muscle pains or body aches, headache, and loss of smell and taste. The CDC also includes the following less common symptoms: runny nose, fatigue (tiredness), nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

  • Incubation Period: average 5 days (range 2 to 14 days) after coming in contact with the secretions of a person who has COVID-19.

  • No Symptoms but Infected: Over 30% of infected patients have no symptoms.

  • Mild Infections: 80% of those with symptoms have a mild illness, much like normal flu or a bad cold. The symptoms usually last 2 weeks.

  • Severe Infections: 20% of those with symptoms develop trouble breathing from viral pneumonia. Many of these need to be admitted to the hospital. People with complications generally recover in 3 to 6 weeks.

  • Deaths: Children generally have a mild illness and recover quickly. Pediatric deaths are very rare. Older adults, especially those with chronic lung disease, heart disease, diabetes or weak immune systems, have the highest death rates. The overall death rate is around 6 per 1000.

  • Vaccine: There currently is no vaccine to prevent COVID-19. Research is on the fast track in many labs. Safe and effective vaccines may be ready by early 2021. Most vaccines will be 2 doses, given 3-4 weeks apart. Similar to flu shots, they will probably provide protection for 6-9 months. The first widely available vaccines will only be offered to adults. Reason: Vaccine safety needed to be proven in adults first and vaccine trials on teens are just starting. (November 2020)

  • Treatment: New treatments for severe COVID-19 are becoming available. They are only used on hospitalized patients and are given in a vein (IV).

  • To meet the high demand for COVID-19 information, when possible, find your answers online. Here are the most reliable websites:

  • CDC website: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus

  • American Academy of Pediatrics parent website: www.healthychildren.org

  • Always follow the most current CDC recommendations if they are different than those in this document.

  1. COVID-19 - How to Protect Yourself and Family from Catching It - The Basics:

    • Avoid close contact with people outside your family unit. Avoid closed spaces (indoors) when possible and all crowds (even outdoors).

    • When you must leave your home, wear a mask and observe social (safe) distancing.

    • Wash hands often with soap and water (very important). Always do before you eat.

    • Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if water is not available. Remember: soap and water work better.

    • Don't touch your eyes, nose or mouth unless your hands are clean. Germs on the hands can get into your body this way.

    • Don't share glasses, plates or eating utensils.

    • No longer shake hands. Greet others with a smile and a nod.

    • If your child needs to be seen for an urgent medical problem, do not hesitate to go in. ERs and urgent care sites are safe places. They are well equipped to protect you against the virus. For non-urgent conditions, talk to your doctor's office first. Medical offices are also safe places.

  2. Social Distancing and COVID-19 Prevention:

    • Avoid any contact with people known to have COVID-19 infection. Avoid talking to or sitting close to them.

    • Social Distancing: Try to stay at least 6 feet (2 meters) away from anyone who is sick, especially if they are coughing. Also called physical distancing. Avoid crowds because you can't tell who might be sick.

    • If COVID-19 is widespread in your community, try to stay 6 feet away from everyone outside your family unit.

    • Stay at Home Orders: Follow any stay at home (stay in place) orders in your community. Leave your home only for essential needs such as buying food or seeking medical care.

    • After Stay at Home Orders are Lifted: Continue social distancing. Also wear a mask when entering any public building or outdoor crowded area. These precautions will be needed for many months. Your state public health department will decide when they are no longer needed.

  3. Face Masks and COVID-19 Prevention:

    • Overview: Face masks are essential for reducing the spread of COVID-19. They will also reduce the spread of flu. Wearing a mask means you care about other people.

    • Recommended Masks: Made of 2 or more layers of washable, breathable fabric. Completely cover the nose and mouth. Fits snugly under your chin and against the sides of your face. Neck gaiter masks may not work as well. (CDC)

    • Sick patients: Must always wear a face mask if need to leave the home. Example: for medical visits. Exception: patients with trouble breathing in a mask can consider a loose face covering such as a bandana.

    • Well people: As community spread became high, the CDC also recommends face masks or coverings for everyone going outside the home. They are critical if entering a public building, such as a grocery store. Face masks are required to enter most businesses. Reason: Many people with COVID-19 have no symptoms but can spread the virus.

    • Well People Exceptions: Face mask or covering is optional if outdoors in nature and you can avoid being within 6 feet of other people. Examples: on an outdoor walk or run.

    • Age Limits: Face coverings also are not recommended for children under 2 years (CDC).

  4. Keep Your Body Strong:

    • Get your body ready to fight the COVID-19 virus.

    • Get enough sleep (very important)

    • Keep your heart strong. Walk or exercise every day. Take the stairs. Caution: avoid physical exhaustion.

    • Stay well hydrated.

    • Eat healthy meals. Avoid overeating to deal with your fears.

    • Avoid the over-use of anti-fever medicines. Fever fights infections and ramps up your immune system 5.

  5. Keep Your Mind Positive:

    • Live in the present, not the future. The future is where your needless worries live.

    • Stay positive. Use a mantra to reduce your fears, such as "I am strong".

    • Get outdoors. Take daily walks. Go to a park if you have one. Being in nature is good for your immune system.

    • Show love. As long as they are well, hug your children and partner frequently. Speak to them in a kind and loving voice. Love strengthens your immune system.

    • Stay in touch. Use regular phone calls and video chats to stay in touch with those you love.

    • "2-Household Bubble". To reduce social isolation, especially for young children, some families have joined up with one other family for visits. Rules: Both families must agree that they will not have social contacts with any other families. No one in either family can work outside the home. Not approved by CDC but a reasonable family decision.

  6. How to Protect Others - When You or Your Child are Sick:

    • Stay home. Don't go to school or work if you are sick. Don't go to stores, restaurants, places of worship or other public places. Avoid public transportation or ride sharing. Leave the house only if you need to seek medical care. Your doctor or local health department will tell you when it is safe to return.

    • No visitors. Do Not allow any visitors, even friends.

    • Cover the cough and sneeze into your shirt sleeve or inner elbow. Don't cough into your hand or the air.

    • If available, sneeze into a tissue and throw it into trash can.

    • Wash hands often with soap and water. After coughing or sneezing are important times.

    • Don't share glasses, plates or eating utensils.

    • Wear a face mask when around others or you have go to a medical facility.

    • Always wear a face mask if you have to leave your home (such as going to a medical facility). Always call first to get approval and careful directions.

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Author: Barton Schmitt MD, FAAP

Copyright 2000-2020 Schmitt Pediatric Guidelines LLC

Disclaimer: This health information is for educational purposes only. You the reader assume full responsibility for how you choose to use it. The information contained in this handout should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. Listing of any resources does not imply an endorsement.