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General Practice 2023

COVID-19 in childrenças: symptoms, treatment and when to go to the hospital

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COVID-19 in childrenças: symptoms, treatment and when to go to the hospital
COVID-19 in childrenças: symptoms, treatment and when to go to the hospital

Although it is less common than in adults, children can also develop COVID-19. However, the symptoms seem to be less severe than in adults, with fever, cough, tiredness, skin changes and diarrhea being more common.

Still, some children may have a more serious infection, known as pediatric multisystem inflammatory syndrome, which can generate stronger symptoms, such as very high fever, vomiting and severe abdominal pain. Understand better how to identify and treat multisystem inflammatory syndrome.

Whenever there is a suspicion of COVID-19, the child should be taken to the pediatrician for a more complete evaluation and follow the same care as adults, washing their hands frequently and maintaining social distance, as they can transmit COVID-19 to others at higher risk, such as parents or grandparents.


Main symptoms

The most common symptoms of COVID-19 in children are:

  • Fever above 38ºC;
  • Persistent dry cough;
  • Coryza;
  • Headache;
  • Reduced taste and smell;
  • Sore throat;
  • Nausea and vomiting;
  • Diarrhea;
  • Excessive fatigue;
  • Decreased appetite.

Symptoms last between 6 and 21 days and are similar to those of a virus and, therefore, can also be accompanied by some gastrointestinal changes, such as abdominal pain, diarrhea or vomiting, for example.

Unlike adults, shortness of breath is not very common in children and, in addition, it is possible that many children may be infected and not have symptoms.

Multisystem inflammatory syndrome

Multisystem inflammatory syndrome is an alteration of COVID-19 that has been observed mainly in children. This syndrome causes widespread inflammation, which can affect the heart, lungs, skin, brain, and eyes. In these cases, the symptoms of COVID-19 tend to be more intense. Understand better what multisystem inflammatory syndrome is.

Skin changes may be more common in children

It is possible that COVID-19 in children more often causes symptoms such as persistent high fever, red skin, swelling, and dry or cracked lips, similar to Kawasaki disease.

In addition, "covid fingers" have been reported in children, which are characterized by a change in the color of the finger's skin, which can turn purple or red, in addition to the appearance of bumps, pain intense, itchy, blistering and swelling.

When taking the child to the doctor

Although COVID-19 in children appears to be less severe, it is very important that all children with symptoms are evaluated to alleviate the discomfort of the infection and identify its cause.

It is recommended that all children with: be evaluated by a pediatrician

  • Less than 3 months of age and with a fever above 38ºC;
  • Age between 3 and 6 months with fever above 39ºC;
  • Fever that lasts for more than 5 days;
  • Difficulty breathing;
  • Blue colored lips and face;
  • Severe pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen;
  • Marked loss of appetite;
  • Change from normal behavior;
  • Fever that does not improve with the use of medication recommended by the pediatrician.

Also, when sick, children are more prone to dehydration, due to water loss through sweating or diarrhea, so it is important to consult a doctor if there are symptoms of dehydration such as sunken eyes, decreased amount of urine, dry mouth, irritability and crying without tears.

How the treatment is done

To date, there is no specific treatment for COVID-19 and, therefore, treatment includes the use of medication to relieve symptoms and prevent the infection from worsening, such as paracetamol, to reduce fever, antibiotics, if there is a risk of pulmonary infection, and medications for other symptoms such as cough or runny nose, for example.

In most cases, treatment can be done at home, keeping the child at rest, with good hydration and administering the medications recommended by the pediatrician. However, there are also situations in which hospitalization may be recommended, especially if the child has more serious symptoms, such as shortness of breath and difficulty breathing, or if they have a history of other diseases that facilitate the worsening of the infection, such as diabetes or asthma.

How to protect against COVID-19

Children should follow the same precautions as adults in preventing COVID-19, which includes:

  • Wash your hands regularly with soap and water, especially after being in public places;
  • Keep distance from other people, especially the elderly;
  • Use a personal protective mask for children over 2 years old;
  • Avoid touching your face with your hands, especially your mouth, nose and eyes;

These care must be included in the child's daily life, because in addition to protecting the child against the virus, they also help to reduce its transmission, preventing it from reaching people at greater risk, such as the elderly, for example.

COVID-19 vaccine for children

In addition to general care, children from 5 years of age can also be vaccinated against COVID-19, reducing not only the risk of catching the infection, but mainly reducing the chances of developing a severe form of the disease.

See more information about the COVID vaccine for children.

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