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Teens: Your Coronavirus Questions Answered

The Story on the Coronavirus

What Is COVID-19?

COVID-19 stands for coronavirus disease 2019. It is a respiratory infection caused by a new type of coronavirus that started in the year 2019. A respiratory infection is an illness that affects the nose, throat, airways, or lungs. COVID-19 is very contagious, spreading easily from person to person.

COVID-19 stands for coronavirus disease 2019. It is a respiratory infection caused by a new type of coronavirus that started in the year 2019.

What Is Coronavirus?

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses common throughout the world. They cause respiratory infections ranging from the common cold to COVID-19. Other coronaviruses have also caused outbreaks in recent years, such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS). But these viruses have not impacted as many people as COVID-19.

The virus that causes COVID-19 is a new type of coronavirus. You also might hear it being called “novel” coronavirus. But the official name of this new coronavirus is SARS-CoV-2.

  • A virus is a microscopic germ that causes diseases, such as colds and the flu. Viruses need a living host (person, animal, or plant) to grow and replicate. Once inside a host cell, the virus releases its DNA or RNA. The virus uses the host cell to make copies of itself. The virus copies are released from the cell and infect other cells, causing illness.
  • The coronavirus is shaped like a ball or sphere. Spike proteins project out from the shell, giving the virus its crown-like appearance. The spike proteins bind to certain receptors found on cells of the respiratory tract.
The coronavirus is shaped like a ball or sphere. Spike proteins project out from the shell, giving the virus its crown-like appearance. The spike proteins bind to certain receptors found on cells of the respiratory tract.

1) The spike protein on the outer shell of the virus attaches to the host cell. The spike acts like a key to allow the virus to enter the cell. 2) Once inside the host cell, the virus releases its RNA. 3) The RNA gives instructions to the host cell to make copies of the virus. 4) Virus copies are released from the host cell where they can infect more cells.

How Does the Coronavirus Spread?

The COVID-19 coronavirus spreads mainly from person to person. This may happen in different ways:

  • The coronavirus can travel through the air in respiratory droplets from a sneeze or a cough and can be inhaled into the lungs.
  • The virus can live on surfaces like phones, doorknobs, or countertops. If you touch something the virus has been on, it can be carried from your hands to your mouth, nose, or eyes.
  • It can spread through direct contact, such as through a handshake.

If people have COVID-19, they must be isolated from other people to prevent spread of the virus. If you think you have come in contact with someone with COVID-19, you should call your doctor and self-quarantine for 14 days in case you develop illness. Symptoms usually develop 2-12 days after exposure to the virus.

Droplets from a person's cough or sneeze can travel over a distance of several feet. Staying at least 6 feet away from others helps keep you safe.
Symptoms of coronavirus disease can take 2-14 days to develop.
A pandemic is a disease outbreak that happens all over the world and affects a large number of people.

What Are the Symptoms of COVID-19?

People with COVID-19 might have:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Runny nose
  • Body aches
  • Sore throat
  • Loss of smell or loss of taste

Doctors are learning about new symptoms as more research becomes available. Some people who get COVID-19 do not have any symptoms.

If you think you have symptoms of COVID-19, it’s important you tell your medical team. Don’t hide or ignore symptoms.

Primary symptoms of coronavirus disease include fever, cough, body aches, runny nose, shortness of breath, and sore throat. Some people with COVID-19 notice a decrease in their sense of smell or taste.

How Is COVID-19 Treated?

Most people have only mild symptoms and can be cared for at home. But some people can become very sick and need to be treated in the hospital. For people who require hospitalization, the medical team can monitor and treat their lungs to make sure their bodies continue to have enough oxygen. In more severe cases, patients have needed more breathing support, such as a breathing tube or ventilator.

How Can I Protect Myself and Others from COVID-19?

Get vaccinated if your doctor recommends it.

To prevent COVID-19, it is important to limit potential contact with the virus.

  • Wash your hands for 20 seconds with soap and water, especially after sneezing, coughing, or being in public places. 
  • You can also use hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
  • Keep your hands away from your face, eyes, mouth, and nose.
  • Sneeze or cough into your elbow or a tissue. Throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Avoid close contact with others and try to distance yourself from others by at least 6 feet.
  • If you think you have symptoms of COVID-19, stay away from other people and call your doctor.
  • Wear a face mask as recommended by your doctor. Make sure to wear it properly.
  • Clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces often, such as doorknobs, handles, light switches, phones, countertops, and keyboards.
Wear a face mask if you are sick or if your medical team recommends it. Make sure to wear it properly.
The virus can live on some surfaces for several days. Clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces often, such as doorknobs, handles, light switches, phones, countertops, and keyboards.

What is social distancing? How does social distancing help prevent the spread of the coronavirus?

The term social distancing, or “physical distancing,” means staying at least 6 feet away from others to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The 6 feet of distance lessens your chance of breathing in coronavirus from someone around you. It is also important to avoid meeting in groups and limit the number of people you are around.

Because of social distancing guidelines, there have been many changes such as schools and stores closing, restaurants doing delivery or pick-up only, and activities or sports being canceled or postponed.

Social distancing helps to "flatten the curve" by slowing the spread of COVID-19. If we can reduce the number of people who get sick at one time, health care systems and hospitals won't be overwhelmed all at once with people requiring hospital care.
The dos and don'ts of social distancing.

Social Distancing to Prevent the Spread of Coronavirus

Read about Social Distancing

What can I do to help cope with social distancing and stay connected to friends?

It is disappointing to miss out on things that are important to you like prom, sports, trips, or graduation. Taking time away from your friends and activities is hard, but it’s very important to stop the virus from spreading. Remember that the COVID-19 pandemic will be temporary, and we can plan to go back to our normal routines at some point. That doesn’t stop the feelings of sadness, uncertainty, or sense of loss. Those emotions are real and important, and they are normal feelings to have during this time.

Social distancing doesn’t have to be boring or lonely! There are a lot of things you can continue to do.

  • Take advantage of the opportunity to explore topics and hobbies that are of interest to you. Many people are offering free online classes and activities during this time.
  • It’s also important to continue to touch base with friends and classmates by phone or virtually. If you are feeling stressed or overwhelmed, it is likely that they are too!
  • It’s common for people to use humor when they are stressed. Memes and sarcasm are a common way for people to cope to make things seem not so bad. Be mindful that sometimes jokes or humor can be inappropriate or hurtful, people might misinterpret them, or people might not use humor in the same way as you.
  • Although you should keep your physical distance from others, it’s important to stay connected and keep checking in with friends to support each other. You might try online games with your friends, such as Instagram Bingo or challenge your friends with the Wikipedia Game.
Wikipedia game
Instagram Bingo

It’s also okay to use this time to SLOW DOWN and PAUSE for a moment. This is an overwhelming and stressful time for many people. It can be hard to focus. Families may be separated. Some people are not able to work or might have to work long hours. You might be worried about your health or the health of loved ones.

Your hospital can help!

  • If you need support, talk to your medical team.
  • Ask if team members, including child life, social work, psychology, and chaplains, are available through telehealth. Telehealth services can provide appointments by videochat.
  • If you have questions about health insurance, looking for a job, or filing for unemployment, contact your social worker.
Ask your medical team about online support groups or telehealth options at your hospital.

What changes will I see at the hospital because of COVID-19?

You may notice changes at your hospital to help everyone stay safe and prevent the spread of coronavirus.

  • When you arrive at the hospital, staff may screen you and ask questions about your health. If you have a fever or other symptoms or have come in contact with someone with COVID-19, you may get tested for COVID-19 when you come to the hospital. Remember, having a fever sometimes happens while you are getting treatments and does not necessarily mean you have COVID-19.
  • You may notice other changes at the hospital, such as entering only through one entrance or changes in your appointments or schedule. The hospital may also limit the number of people allowed with you. Siblings or other family members or friends may be asked to stay home.
  • Many of the normal hospital activities may be canceled, and group meeting places may be closed.

Right now, you may be feeling some uncertainty with COVID-19. If you have any questions, talk to your care team.

Coping during COVID-19. It is OK to use this time to slow down and pause for a moment. This is an overwhelming and stressful time for many people.

Tips for Self-Care During Coronavirus

With all of the changes and uncertainty of COVID-19, you may find yourself worrying more than usual. It might also be harder to eat healthy, be active, or have healthy sleep habits. But it is even more important to take care of yourself to help you stay strong physically and emotionally.

  • Be sure to continue to eat healthy, exercise according to your medical team’s recommendations, reduce stress, and get a good night’s sleep every night. This will help your body and immune system stay strong.
  • Try to keep a routine and spend time doing things you enjoy or find relaxing. This can help you feel more normal.
  • It’s normal to worry, especially during times of stress. But too much worry is not healthy. To help manage anxiety you might try to listen to music, talk to friends, write about your feelings, play a game, or take deep breaths.
  • You can also learn and practice stress reducing strategies, like mindfulness or grounding activities. One example is focusing on your 5 senses (e.g., focus on 5 things you can see, 4 things you can feel, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell, and 1 thing you can taste).
  • There are ways to practice mindfulness online with your friends! Try and share the grounding challenge below. Then share this on your Instagram story. Not only is it good practice for yourself, but it could even help someone else who is also feeling anxious.

Remember that we cannot control everything, so it’s important to focus on what we can control, like taking care of ourselves.

A sticker challenge to help calm stress.
Be a myth buster. You may be hearing a lot of different things on TV or from your family. It's important to get accurate information from reliable sources.

Be a Myth Buster!

You may be hearing a lot of different things on TV or from your friends or family. It’s important to get accurate information from reliable sources. It is also okay to take a break from the news and to limit time spent tuning in to TV, news sites, or social media outlets. You may have questions about certain things related to COVID-19. As doctors and researchers learn more about COVID-19, information may change.

To be sure you are getting accurate information, it is best to ask your medical team or visit the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) or World Health Organization (WHO) websites.

In case you were wondering...

Can I go outside?

Yes, you can go outside to exercise, walk, enjoy nature, or bike, but be sure to continue practicing social distancing, staying at least 6 feet away from others.

Is it safe to order take-out?

COVID-19 is not a foodborne illness. Viruses need live cells to be their host! As long as the people who prepare your food are washing their hands and practicing safe food preparation, ordering food from restaurants does not put you at risk for COVID-19. Use safe delivery options that maintain social distancing recommendations.

I heard that COVID-19 is just like the flu. Is everyone just overreacting?

While COVID-19 and influenza are both types of viral infections, COVID-19 is different because it is new and spreading so rapidly. Unlike the flu, treatments and vaccines have not yet been developed for COVID-19.

While many experience mild symptoms, some people have become VERY sick due to COVID-19. COVID-19 can affect people’s ability to breathe.

The CDC has developed recommendations based on what has successfully reduced the spread of COVID-19 in other countries who experienced the effects of this pandemic earlier than the United States. It is important that we quickly learn from other countries’ experiences to keep as many people healthy as possible.

Am I at higher risk of getting or dying from COVID-19 if I am receiving cancer treatments or have a weakened immune system?

During your cancer treatments, there may be times that your chemotherapy weakens your immune system. This can place you at higher risk for infections, including COVID-19. Patients with cancer or other serious health conditions may be at higher risk for developing complications or more severe illness. It is important to take precautions to minimize your risk of illness.

Do young people get COVID-19? Do young people only exhibit mild symptoms?

Young people can develop COVID-19 and spread the virus to others. While most people who have COVID-19 exhibit mild symptoms, some people exhibit very severe symptoms.