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Last updated: 23 October at 10.45am

If your child has been in close contact with someone else who has COVID-19, you will be contacted to bring your child home. The school or childcare facility will not share the name of the person who tested positive (COVID-19 virus found).

The HSE will arrange a COVID-19 test for your child and contact you with the appointment. This may be the same day or next day. Do not ring your GP, unless your child develops symptoms.

The risk of your child becoming infected with COVID-19 from this close contact is small. Even if your child does become infected with the virus, most children don’t get any symptoms. If they do get symptoms, they usually have a very mild illness.

But there are some things you need to do to help stop the spread of COVID-19. 

If your child has symptoms

If your child has symptoms of COVID-19, they will need to self-isolate immediately and you should phone your GP. 

Common symptoms of COVID-19 include:

  • a fever (high temperature - 38 degrees Celsius or above)
  • a cough - this can be any kind of cough, not just dry
  • shortness of breath or breathing difficulties
  • loss or change to your sense of smell or taste – cannot smell or taste anything, or things smell or taste different to normal

Self-isolation means they should stay in a room, on their own, with a window open for ventilation. They should avoid contact with other people. Depending on the age of your child, a parent may need to isolate with them.

Read more about self-isolation

Read about caring for a child in self-isolation

If your child does not have symptoms

Your child needs to stay at home (restricted movements)

Your child must restrict their movements for 14 days, since they were last in close contact with the person who has tested positive for COVID-19. The HSE will tell you when they can stop restricting movements. 

Restricted movements means they need to stay at home, avoiding contact with other people and social situations as much as possible. This is to help stop the spread of the virus if they do have COVID-19 too.

During the 14 days restricted movements your child cannot:

  • attend school, childcare or any group activities
  • use public transport
  • visit other people’s homes or have visitors to your home

Your child can go outside to attend a medical appointment or to exercise as long as they keep 2 metres distance from other people.

Read more about how to restrict movements

The rest of your household

If your child who is a close contact of COVID-19 is feeling well, with no symptoms of COVID-19, other people in the house do not need to restrict their movements. They can continue to go to work, school, preschool or childcare. 

But, if they have also been told they are also a close contact of COVID-19, they would then need to restrict their movements.

Your child's COVID-19 test 

The HSE will contact you to organise a free COVID-19 test for your child. Keep your phone close to you and make sure it is switched on.

You will receive a text message with details of the test appointment location, date and time. Most people receive their test result within 2 days.

You do not need to contact your GP to arrange a test.

Read more about COVID-19 testing for children

If your child tests positive

Your child will need to self-isolate (stay in their room) if their test result is positive (COVID-19 virus found). They can stop self-isolating 10 days from the date of the test.

If you are looking after a young child who is isolating there is a risk that you can become infected too. It will be difficult for you to isolate from them.

Because of this, you need to take extra care to reduce the risk of spreading the virus and restrict your movements for longer than usual.

You and everyone in your household will need to restrict your movements for 17 days - this includes the 10 days that your child is in isolation and for 7 days after your child's isolation period ends.

If your child tests negative

If your child, who is a close contact with no symptoms of COVID-19, receives a negative test result (COVID-19 virus was not detected), they still need to restrict their movements:

  • for 14 days from their last contact with the person who tested positive, or
  • until the date you were told by contact tracing

This is because it can take up to 14 days to develop infection of COVID-19.

Second tests

Children who have no symptoms but have had close contact with a case may have 2 tests for COVID-19. This is because it can take up to 14 days for the virus to show up in your system after you have been exposed to it.

The second test will be 7 days after their last contact with the person who has COVID-19. If this is close to when they had their first test, they will only have 1 test.

If your child develops symptoms of COVID-19 after a negative test

 If your child had a not detected (COVID-19 virus was not found) test result but later goes on to develop symptoms, isolate your child and phone your GP.

Explain to your GP that your child was tested as a close contact of a case of COVID-19 and they have now developed symptoms of COVID-19. The GP will discuss referring your child for another free coronavirus test.

If your child develops symptoms, people in your household need to restrict their movements now and stay at home. This includes not attending school or work.

If your child's symptoms get worse

If your child becomes very unwell quickly, it's rare that they have COVID-19. Their symptoms may be because of another illness.

Phone 999 or 112 if your baby is under 3 months old and has a high temperature (38 degrees Celsius or more). If your baby is aged 3 to 6 months and has a high temperature, phone your GP urgently.

Read about symptoms in babies and children that need urgent medical help

Related topics

Explaining COVID-19 to your child

The difference between self-isolating and restricted movements

How COVID-19 is spread

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