This advice is for babies and children up to the end of secondary school, usually the age of 18.
If your child has symptoms of COVID-19 (coronavirus) they need to:
- stay at home and isolate from other people
- get tested - find out what type of test they should do
- wear a medical, respirator or well-fitted face mask around other people, depending on their age
Your child can go to school with a runny nose or sneezing as long as they:
- have no other symptoms
- do not have a fever
- are otherwise well
But if your child has a runny nose and feels unwell or is off form, they should stay at home.
Immediate action required: Phone 999 or 112 if:
- your baby is under 3 months old and has a high temperature (38 degrees Celsius or more)
Urgent advice: Phone your GP immediately if:
- your baby is aged 3 to 6 months and has a high temperature
Symptoms of COVID-19
The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are:
- fever (high temperature of 38 degrees Celsius or more) - including having chills
- dry cough
- fatigue (tiredness)
Your child may not have all of these symptoms. Symptoms may vary for different age groups or variants of the virus. It can take up to 14 days for symptoms to show.
If your child becomes unwell quickly, the cause is unlikely to be COVID-19. Their symptoms may be caused by another illness.
Your child needs to isolate
Your child needs to isolate from other people (stay at home) if they have symptoms. They need to do this at least until they get their test results.
If your child has symptoms and is doing antigen tests, continue to isolate and do regular antigen tests even if their first antigen tests are negative.
People your child lives with
People your child lives with need to restrict their movements at least until your child gets their PCR test result or completes their antigen tests.
They do not need to do this if they:
- have had a booster vaccine more than 7 day ago - boosters are only available to over 16s
- 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
What they need to do next depends on your child's test result.
What do ‘booster dose’ and ‘first round of COVID-19 vaccination’ mean?
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.
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
If your child gets a negative test result
If your child gets a negative PCR result or 3 negative antigen tests, they can stop isolating 48 hours after they have no symptoms.
They can return to school or childcare if they do not have another infectious disease, such as flu.
The people they live with who were restricting their movements can return to their normal activities as long as they do not have symptoms. If they have symptoms, they should isolate and get a COVID-19 test.
If your child gets a positive test result
If your child's 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) or other symptoms for 2 days
- it has been 7 days since they first developed symptoms
If your child is doing antigen tests, you should also report their positive antigen test and list their close contacts.
The people they live with will become household close contacts. They need to get tested for COVID-19 and may need to restrict their movements. This will depend on the age and situation.
For advice on what the people your child lives with need to do visit:
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.
How to treat your child's symptoms
Most children get mild symptoms. They can recover from COVID-19 at home and using medicines bought without a prescription.
If your child has diarrhoea
If your child has diarrhoea, they should stay at home. Diarrhoea is a symptom of infections. They could pass this to other children.
Your child should not go to school until they have not had diarrhoea for 48 hours.
Diarrhoea is also a sign of COVID-19. But it is not a very common symptom.
If your child does not have other symptoms of COVID-19, the people they live with do not need to restrict their movements if they feel OK.
Multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MIS-C)
A very small number of children who have COVID-19 need hospital treatment for a condition called multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MIS-C). This is also known as paediatric inflammatory multisystem syndrome (PIMS).
MIS-C is a life-threatening disorder caused by an unusual response to an infection by your body's immune system. It is similar to Kawasaki disease or toxic shock syndrome and is very rare.
We don't know if these children developed MIS-C because they have COVID-19. It is too early to tell if there is a link.
Children who need hospital treatment for MIS-C are tested for COVID-19 as a precaution.
Last updated: 14 January 2022 at 9am