Protecting your child from COVID-19

COVID-19 (coronavirus) can affect children as well as adults.

But cases of COVID-19 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.

Read about what to do if your child has symptoms of COVID-19

Non-urgent advice: Don't wait to get help

Phone your GP if you are worried about your child's health

Protecting your child

The most important things you can do to protect your child are:

Read about explaining COVID-19 to your child

COVID-19 vaccines for children

People aged 16 and over can now register for a COVID-19 vaccine.

Children aged 12 to 15 can also now register for a vaccine. But they will need a parent or guardian's consent to get vaccinated. Read more about deciding on vaccination for 12 to 15 year olds.

COVID-19 vaccines are currently not approved for children under the age of 12.

Face coverings and children

All children aged 9 or older should wear a face mask:

  • on public transport
  • in shops
  • in indoor public settings

Primary school children from third class up should wear a face mask in school and on school transport.

All secondary school children should also wear a face mask at school and on school transport.

If your child cannot wear a face mask for medical reasons you may be asked to provide a medical cert at school.

Children may also be asked to wear one when attending a hospital clinic or GP surgery.

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 COVID-19 - a new cough, loss or changed sense of taste or smell, or shortness of breath
  • are a close contact with someone who has COVID-19
  • live with someone who is unwell and may have COVID-19

Read more about symptoms of COVID-19 and when it’s okay to send your child to school or childcare

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

Read support information from for parents and children as they return to school

School and children with health conditions

There is no reason a child with any of the following health conditions cannot go to school:

  • asthma
  • cystic fibrosis
  • diabetes
  • inflammatory bowel disease
  • neurodisability

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 COVID-19.

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 wellbeing to go to school. But parents or family members at higher-risk from COVID-19 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 COVID-19 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:

Your child should try and keep up their normal activities and go to school. This is good for their overall wellbeing.

If you have concerns about your child's health condition, ask their specialist team for advice.

A small number of children with COVID-19 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

Read about minding your mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic

Children with a health condition and symptoms of COVID-19

If your child has a health condition and gets symptoms of COVID-19:

  • isolate your child from other people - this means keeping them at home and completely avoiding 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 COVID-19 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

Read more about good hygiene and hand washing

Children taking part in sports, youth clubs and other activities

Children can take part in non-contact training outdoors. This should be in pods of 15 people or less. Only individual training is allowed indoors.

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.

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 COVID-19, 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.

Read more about vaccines for your child

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.

Last updated: 1 December 9.46am

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