If your child is a close contact of COVID-19

If your child is a close contact of a person who tested positive for COVID-19 (coronavirus), there's a chance they may have COVID-19 too.

What they need to do depends on what age they are and their situation.

What close contact means

When your child has been in close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19, you will get a text from the HSE to let you know that they are a close contact. If your child is aged over 16, the HSE will text them directly.

Your child could have been in contact with a positive case:

  • in your household (sometimes called a 'household close contact')
  • outside your household (sometimes called a 'non-household close contact' or ‘community close contact’)
What's a household close contact?

You are a household close contact if you:

  • live or sleep in the same home as a person who has tested positive
  • use a kitchen or bathroom in shared accommodation with a person who has tested positive
  • are a sexual partner of a person who has tested positive
What's a non-household close contact?

You are a non-household close contact if you and someone who has had a positive test result have been within 2 metres of each other for more than 15 minutes in total in 1 day.

When someone tests positive for COVID-19, their close contacts include people they were in close contact with in the:

  • 48-hour period before they developed symptoms
  • 24-hour period before their test, if they did not have symptoms

It does not include people they saw briefly and did not touch. For example talking to someone for a few minutes more than 2 metres apart.

Children under 13 years old

Children under the age of 13 are generally only identified as a household close contact.

If they are in contact with someone who has COVID 19 in a non-household setting, they do not need to restrict their movements or get a test unless they are told to by the HSE or they have symptoms of COVID-19.

They can attend school, childcare and other activities as normal.

They may be offered free antigen tests if there:

  • is a confirmed case of COVID-19 in their pod
  • are 2 or more confirmed cases of COVID-19 in their group or class in different pods within a 7-day period

If your child has symptoms of COVID-19 they need to:

What to do if your child is a close contact

If your child is a close contact, follow the advice below that matches their age and their situation.

You will see the terms 'booster dose' and 'first round of COVID-19 vaccination'. If you're not sure what they mean, read these explainers first:

What do ‘booster dose’ and ‘first round of COVID-19 vaccination’ mean?

Booster dose

A ‘booster dose’ is the extra dose of COVID-19 vaccine used to give better protection to people who have already had their first round of COVID-19 vaccination.

Booster vaccines are currently only available to people aged 16 or older.

First round of COVID-19 vaccination

When we say ‘first round of COVID-19 vaccination’ we mean your dose 1 and dose 2 if you got AstraZeneca, Moderna or Pfizer. Or your single dose if you got the Janssen vaccine.

Children aged 5 and older can now get a COVID-19 vaccine.

If you have a weak immune system, you should have been offered an ‘additional dose’ to give you better protection. This is because your immune system may not respond as well to vaccination. You will still need a booster dose after this additional dose.

How long does it take COVID-19 vaccines to work?

For your booster dose of COVID-19 vaccine it takes 7 days for it to work.

For your first round of COVID-19 vaccination it takes:

  • 7 days after your second Pfizer/BioNTech dose for it to work
  • 15 days after your second AstraZeneca dose for it to work
  • 14 days after your second Moderna dose for it to work
  • 14 days after the Janssen single dose vaccine for it to work

Your child's situation

Age 0 to 3 months and any close contact

Here's what you need to do if your baby is aged between 0 to 3 months and is a close contact.

Testing

If your child does not have symptoms of COVID-19, they do not need to be tested.

If they develop symptoms, phone your GP for advice.

Restricted movements

Your child needs to restrict movements (stay at home) for 7 days. They should do this from when they were last in contact with the person who tested positive. If you do not know when this was, do this from when you get the close contact text message from the HSE.

Age 3 months to 3 years and a household close contact

Here's what you need to do if your child is aged between 3 months and 3 years and is a household close contact.

There is separate advice if your child has recovered from COVID-19 after getting a positive test anytime since 1 December 2021.

Testing

If your child does not have symptoms of COVID-19, they do not need to be tested.

If they develop symptoms, they need to be isolated from other people and get a COVID-19 PCR test.

Restricted movements

Your child needs to restrict movements (stay at home) for 7 days.

They should do this from when they were last in contact with the person who tested positive. If you do not know when this was, do this from when you get the close contact text message from the HSE.

Age 4 to 12 and a household close contact

Here's what you need to do if your child is aged between 4 and 12 years old and a household close contact.

There is separate advice if your child has recovered from COVID-19 after getting a positive test anytime since 1 December 2021.

Testing

Your child needs to do 3 antigen tests over 7 days.

They should do the:

  • first test as soon as possible
  • second test 3 days after their first test
  • third test on the 7th day of their restricted movements period

Watch a video on how to do an antigen test with a child

If any of your child's antigen tests are positive

If any of your child's antigen tests are positive, they need to be isolated from other people (stay at home) for at least 7 days. This is from the day they test positive.

You should also report their positive antigen test.

If your child starts to develop symptoms

If your child starts to develop symptoms, they need to:

How long they will need to isolate for will depend on their test results.

If it has been less than a week since they were told they were a close contact, they should do a final antigen test 7 days after their close contact text.

Restricted movements

Your child needs to restrict movements (stay at home) for 7 days.

They should do this from when they were last in contact with the person who tested positive. If you do not know when this was, do this from when you get the close contact text message from the HSE.

They can stop restricting their movements if they do not have symptoms and get a negative antigen test result 7 days after their last contact with the person who tested positive for COVID-19.

Face masks

Children aged 9 or older should wear a well-fitted face mask for 10 days. This includes the 7 days they are restricting their movements and an extra 3 days.

It's best if they wear a well-fitted medical or respirator face mask. But a cloth face mask is also OK as long as it is well-fitted.

It's OK if they cannot wear a mask all the time. But they should try wear a mask as often as they can during this time.

Age 3 months to 12 years and a non-household close contact

Here's what you need to do if your child is between 3 months to 12 years old, and is a non-household close contact.

Testing

If your child does not have symptoms of COVID-19, they do not need to be tested.

If they develop symptoms they need to:

Children aged 4 or older in school, childcare or pre-school may be offered free antigen tests if there:

  • is a confirmed case of COVID-19 in their pod
  • are 2 or more confirmed cases of COVID-19 in their group or class in different pods within a 7-day period

Restricted movements

Your child does not need to restrict their movements (stay at home) if they do not have symptoms. They can attend school and other activities as normal.

Information:

We may ask your child to restrict their movements and get a test for COVID-19 in certain situations. For example, due to an outbreak. We will let you know. Always follow public health advice.

Face masks

Children aged 9 or older should wear a well-fitted face mask for 10 days. This includes the 7 days they are restricting their movements and an extra 3 days.

It's best if they wear a well-fitted medical or respirator face mask. But a cloth face mask is also OK as long as it is well-fitted.

It's OK if they cannot wear a mask all the time. But they should try wear a mask as often as they can during this time.

Age 13 or older and had a booster more than 7 days ago

Here's what your child needs to do if they are aged 13 or older, a close contact of any kind, and got their booster vaccine more than 7 days before the close contact text.

There is separate advice if your child has recovered from COVID-19 after getting a positive test anytime since 1 December 2021.

Testing

Your child needs to do 3 antigen tests over 7 days.

They should do the:

  • first test as soon as possible
  • second test 3 days after their first test
  • third test on the 7th day of their restricted movements period

Watch a video on how to do an antigen test with a child

If any of your child's antigen tests are positive

If any of your child's antigen tests are positive, they need to be isolated from other people (stay at home) for at least 7 days. This is from the day they test positive. You should also report their positive antigen test.

If your child starts to develop symptoms

If your child starts to develop symptoms, they need to:

How long they will need to isolate for will depend on their test results.

If it has been less than a week since they were told they were a close contact, they should do a final antigen test 7 days after their close contact text.

Restricted movements

Your child does not need to restrict their movements (stay at home) if they do not have symptoms. They can attend school and other activities as normal.

Face masks

Your child should use a well-fitted medical or respirator face mask for 10 days.

Age 13 or older and had a booster less than 7 days ago

Here's what your child needs to do if they are aged 13 or older, a close contact of any kind, and got their booster vaccine less than 7 days before the close contact text.

There is separate advice if your child has recovered from COVID-19 after getting a positive test anytime since 1 December 2021.

Testing

Your child needs to do 3 antigen tests over 7 days.

They should do the:

  • first test as soon as possible
  • second test 3 days after their first test
  • third test on the 7th day of their restricted movements period

Watch a video on how to do an antigen test with a child

If any of your child's antigen tests are positive

If any of your child's antigen tests are positive, they need to be isolated from other people (stay at home) for at least 7 days. This is from the day they test positive. You should also report their positive antigen test.

If your child starts to develop symptoms

If your child starts to develop symptoms, they need to:

How long they will need to isolate for will depend on their test results.

If it has been less than a week since they were told they were a close contact, they should do a final antigen test 7 days after their close contact text.

Restricted movements

Your child needs to restrict movements (stay at home) for 7 days. They should do this from when they were last in contact with the person who tested positive. If you do not know when this was, do this from when you get the close contact text message from the HSE.

They can stop restricting their movements if they do not have symptoms and get a negative antigen test result 7 days after their last contact with the person who tested positive for COVID-19.

Face masks

Your child should use a well-fitted medical or respirator face mask for 10 days.

Age 13 or older and had first round of COVID-19 vaccine but no booster

Here's what you need to do if your child is aged 13 or older, is a close contact of any kind, and has had their first round of COVID-19 vaccine but has not had a booster dose.

Booster vaccines are currently only available to people aged 16 and older.

There is separate advice if your child has recovered from COVID-19 after getting a positive test anytime since 1 December 2021.

Testing

Your child needs to do 3 antigen tests over 7 days.

They should do the:

  • first test as soon as possible
  • second test 3 days after their first test
  • third test on the 7th day of their restricted movements period

Watch a video on how to do an antigen test with a child

If any of your child's antigen tests are positive

If any of your child's antigen tests are positive, they need to be isolated from other people (stay at home) for at least 7 days. This is from the day they test positive. You should also report their positive antigen test.

If your child starts to develop symptoms

If your child starts to develop symptoms, they need to:

How long they will need to isolate for will depend on their test results.

If it has been less than a week since they were told they were a close contact, they should do a final antigen test 7 days after their close contact text.

Restricted movements

Your child needs to restrict movements (stay at home) for 7 days. They should do this from when they were last in contact with the person who tested positive. If you do not know when this was, do this from when you get the close contact text message from the HSE.

They can stop restricting their movements if they do not have symptoms and get a negative antigen test result 7 days after their last contact with the person who tested positive for COVID-19.

Face masks

Your child should use a well-fitted medical or respirator face mask for 10 days.

Age 13 or older, had their first vaccine round and had a positive test in the past 3 months

Here's what your child needs to do if they are aged 13 or older, a close contact of any kind, had their first round of COVID-19 vaccine and has tested positive for COVID-19 in the past 3 months.

There is separate advice if your child has recovered from COVID-19 after getting a positive test anytime since 1 December 2021.

Testing

Your child needs to do 3 antigen tests over 7 days.

They should do the:

  • first test as soon as possible
  • second test 3 days after their first test
  • third test on the 7th day of their restricted movements period

Watch a video on how to do an antigen test with a child

If any of your child's antigen tests are positive

If any of your child's antigen tests are positive, they need to be isolated from other people (stay at home) for at least 7 days. This is from the day they test positive. You should also report their positive antigen test.

If your child starts to develop symptoms

If your child starts to develop symptoms, they need to:

How long they will need to isolate for will depend on their test results.

If it has been less than a week since they were told they were a close contact, they should do a final antigen test 7 days after their close contact text.

Restricted movements

Your child does not need to restrict their movements (stay at home) if they do not have symptoms. They can attend school and other activities as normal.

Face masks

Your child should use a well-fitted medical or respirator face mask for 10 days.

Age 13 or older and not vaccinated

Here's what you need to do if your child is aged 13 or older, is a close contact of any kind, and has not had their first round of COVID-19 vaccine.

There is separate advice if your child has recovered from COVID-19 after getting a positive test anytime since 1 December 2021.

Testing

Your child needs to do 3 antigen tests over 7 days.

They should do the:

  • first test as soon as possible
  • second test 3 days after their first test
  • third test on the 7th day of their restricted movements period

Watch a video on how to do an antigen test with a child

If any of your child's antigen tests are positive

If any of your child's antigen tests are positive, they need to be isolated from other people (stay at home) for at least 7 days. This is from the day they test positive. You should also report their positive antigen test.

If your child starts to develop symptoms

If your child starts to develop symptoms, they need to:

How long they will need to isolate for will depend on their test results.

If it has been less than a week since they were told they were a close contact, they should do a final antigen test 7 days after their close contact text.

Restricted movements

Your child needs to restrict movements (stay at home) for 7 days. They should do this from when they were last in contact with the person who tested positive. If you do not know when this was, do this from when you get the close contact text message from the HSE.

They can stop restricting their movements if they do not have symptoms and get a negative antigen test result 7 days after their last contact with the person who tested positive for COVID-19.

Face masks

Your child should use a well-fitted medical or respirator face mask for 10 days.

If your child has symptoms of COVID-19

If your child is a close contact and has symptoms of COVID-19, what they need to do depends on if they are aged 3 or younger, or aged 4 or older.

Testing

If your child is aged 3 or younger, and has symptoms of COVID-19, book a PCR test for them. Do not book antigen tests.

If your child is aged 4 or older, and has symptoms of COVID-19, they should book antigen tests. Do not book a PCR test.

You can book antigen tests online from the HSE. Only book 1 kit per person.

Isolation and restricted movements

What your child needs to do

Your child needs to self-isolate (stay in a room) if they are aged 13 or older as soon as you notice symptoms of COVID-19.

It's not possible to ask children under the age of 13 to isolate on their own. But you still need to isolate them from other people.

Your child needs to stay in isolation at least until they get their test result.

If your child gets a negative result, they can stop isolating 48 hours after they have no symptoms.

If their test result is positive, they should keep isolating until both of these apply:

  • they have not had a high temperature (38 degrees Celsius or over) for 2 days
  • it has been 7 days since they first developed symptoms

They should also report their positive antigen test result and list their close contacts, if they have been using antigen tests.

If your child tested positive but did not have symptoms they can stop isolating 7 days after the date of their positive test result.

What the people your child lives with need to do

People who live with your child need to restrict their movements unless they:

  • had a booster vaccine more than 7 day ago - boosters are currently only available to people aged 16 and older
  • recovered from COVID-19 in the past 3 months and have had their first round of COVID-19 vaccine
  • recovered from COVID-19 after testing positive since 1 December 2021

They need to do this at least until your child gets their PCR test result or completes their series of antigen tests.

Negative test result

If your child's PCR test result is negative or if all 3 of their antigen tests are negative, anyone your child lives with who has been restricting their movements can return to their normal activities. They can go to school and their normal activities as usual.

Positive test result

If your child gets a positive antigen or PCR test result, the people they live with will become close contacts.

Children who are close contacts should follow the advice on this page that matches their situation.

Information:

There is separate advice for adults who are close contacts.

If your child is unable to isolate

Young children cannot isolate from other people. If you are living with a child who has COVID-19 and cannot be kept away from other people, there is separate advice that you and the people you live with should follow.

Face masks

Children aged 9 or older should wear a well-fitted face mask for 10 days. This includes the 7 days they are restricting their movements and an extra 3 days.

It's best if they wear a well-fitted medical or respirator face mask. But a cloth face mask is also OK as long as it is well-fitted.

It's OK if they cannot wear a mask all the time. But they should try wear a mask as often as they can during this time.

If your child has recovered from COVID-19 since 1 December 2021

Testing

Your child does not need to be tested if they do not have symptoms.

Restricted movements

Your child does not need to restrict their movements (stay at home) if they do not have symptoms. They can attend school and other activities as normal.

If they develop symptoms, they need to:

If your child is in special education or respite care

Here's what your child needs to do if they are a close contact of any kind and in special educational needs schools or classes or respite care.

Public health doctors identify close contacts in these settings. A contact tracer will phone you and tell you what you and your child need to do.

Testing

Your child needs to get a PCR test - a contact tracer will arrange this.

They are usually only offered 1 test.

Restricted movements

Your child needs to restrict movements (stay at home) for 5 days. They should do this from when they were last in contact with the person who tested positive. If you do not know when this was, do this from when you get the close contact text message from the HSE.

They can stop restricting their movements if they do not have symptoms and get a negative test result 5 days after their last contact with the person who tested positive for COVID-19.

I know my child is a close contact but I have not been contacted by the HSE yet

If your child has symptoms of COVID-19, they need to:

If your child does not have symptoms, follow the advice on this page depending on their situation.

Caring for a child who is isolating

If you are looking after a young child who is isolating, it will be difficult for you to isolate from them.

Read about caring for someone who cannot self-isolate

Last updated: 14 January 2022 at 3.15pm

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