Last updated: 19 September 2020 at 12.01am
Coronavirus (COVID-19) can affect children as well as adults.
But cases of coronavirus are much less common in children. Children generally get a milder infection than adults. They often have no symptoms.
Children do not spread the virus more than adults and are rarely the cause of the virus spreading in households.
If you are worried about your child's health, phone your GP.
Protecting your child
The most important things you can do to protect your child are:
- follow the advice on protecting yourself and others from coronavirus - Dublin is at level 3 restrictions so follow this advice if you live in Dublin
- look out for symptoms of coronavirus - if your child has symptoms, isolate your child from other people and phone your GP
- encourage your child to wash their hands regularly and properly
- clean and disinfect surfaces in your home. For example, door handles, TV remotes and the toilet flush.
- follow advice to prevent your child from catching or spreading viral infections
Face coverings and children
Face coverings are not recommended for children under the age of 13. Young children may not be able to follow the advice about wearing a face covering correctly. But they should wear a face covering if their doctor or healthcare worker advises this. For example, when attending a hospital clinic.
Children over 13 should follow the advice for adults around face coverings. They must wear a face covering in shops and on public transport, and should wear a covering when it is difficult to maintain a 2 metre distance from other people.
All secondary school children should wear a face covering in secondary school, even if they are under 13. This is because they are at the same developmental stage as their peers and can follow the advice on using face coverings properly.
How your child should wash their hands
Going to school
All children should go to school unless they:
- have a temperature of 38 degrees Celsius or more
- have other common symptoms of coronavirus - a new cough, loss or changed sense of taste or smell, or shortness of breath
- have been in close contact with someone who has coronavirus
- live with someone who is unwell and may have coronavirus
- have recently returned from a country that is not on the green list
It is not common for a child to pass the virus on to other children in school. Children who do get the virus, usually get it from adults. This is particularly true for children under the age of 13.
Measures in schools to reduce the risk include:
- hand hygiene
- cleaning measures
- reduced mixing between children
- fewer objects going in and out of school
- face coverings for secondary school students - face coverings are not recommended for younger children
School and children with health conditions
There is no reason a child with any of the following health conditions cannot go to school:
- cystic fibrosis
- inflammatory bowel disease
But children may need to stay away from school if they have:
- recently had a transplant
- severe immunodeficiency from very recent cancer treatment
- unstable or severe cystic fibrosis
Their specialist can advise you if your child needs to take any extra precautions. Contact the specialist and GP straight away if your child gets coronavirus.
School children and adults at higher risk
Children should return to school even if they live with someone who is:
It is important for a child’s overall well-being to go to school. But parents or family members at higher-risk from coronavirus should take extra care to socially distance from other adults. For example, at school pick up times.
Children with health conditions
Children with underlying health conditions may be vulnerable to any infection. But the risk of severe illness from coronavirus seems to be low, even if your child has:
- an underlying health condition
- special healthcare needs
If your child has a health condition they and everyone in the family should still:
- be extra careful in watching out for symptoms
- strictly follow the advice on good hygiene and hand washing
Your child should try and keep up their normal activities and go to school. This is good for their overall well-being.
If you have concerns about your child's health condition, ask their specialist team for advice.
A small number of children with coronavirus have developed an inflammatory syndrome called paediatric inflammatory multisystem syndrome (PIMS). This condition is very rare. It mainly affects children who do not have a health condition. Read more about PIMS.
Children with a health condition and symptoms of coronavirus
If your child has a health condition and gets symptoms of coronavirus:
- isolate your child from other people - this means keep them at home and completely avoid contact with other people. This includes other people in your household - read advice on self-isolation
- phone your GP and specialist - they will advise you if your child needs a coronavirus test.
Exercise and play
All indoor and outdoor activities for children should follow public health guidelines.
If you and your child go to a play area:
- follow social distancing guidance - keep 2 metres from other children and adults
- get your child to wash their hands before and afterwards
- use hand sanitiser when hand washing facilities are not available
- make sure your child follows good hygiene practices when coughing or sneezing
Children taking part in sports, youth clubs and other activities
Children taking part in group activities, such as sports, should be put into small groups. This group should contain the same children and staff members for every activity.
If your child moves between parent or carer's homes
Court orders in relation to access, maintenance and guardianship have not changed. They should still be followed.
But if your child moves between parent or carer's homes, they will need to restrict their movements if they are in a home where someone becomes ill with symptoms of coronavirus.
If your child is due to get vaccines (immunisation)
Your child should still get their vaccines as normal.
But if your child has symptoms of coronavirus, they will need to self-isolate. Do not take them to your GP. Phone your GP and they will postpone the vaccines for a few weeks.
When your child is out of self-isolation, phone your GP to make a new appointment.
Get the flu vaccine for yourself and your children early in the autumn. It is available free to all children aged 2 to 12 years and all medically vulnerable children.
If your child visits someone at higher risk from coronavirus
You may need to visit someone at very high risk from coronavirus, such as people over the age of 70. Use your judgement to protect those who are cocooning.