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COVID-19

What is COVID-19?

COVID-19 stands for coronavirus disease 2019. It is an illness caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus. COVID-19 affects the respiratory system including the lungs, nose, and throat.

Most people with COVID-19 have mild symptoms, much like a cold or the flu. But some people can develop more serious complications like pneumonia or have problems that are long-lasting.

COVID-19 spreads easily from person to person. People who are infected can spread the virus even if they do not have symptoms.

Staying up to date on your COVID-19 vaccine can help protect against serious illness. Talk to your health care provider about specific vaccine recommendations.

Primary symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, cough, runny nose, shortness of breath, and sore throat.

Many symptoms of COVID-19 are similar to those of a cold or the flu. Some people may be infected with the virus and not have any symptoms.

Symptoms of COVID-19

Most people with COVID-19 have mild symptoms. Some people may not show any symptoms. Symptoms of COVID-19 include:

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

In some cases, people with COVID-19 become very ill. Warning signs of severe illness are:

  • Shortness of breath or problems breathing
  • Chest pain or pressure
  • Blue lips or face
  • Confusion
  • Decreased alertness
  • Loss of consciousness

COVID-19 in children with illness or weak immune systems

Children with certain medical conditions or who have weak immune systems are at higher risk for severe COVID-19. Most patients do relatively well if they get COVID-19. But COVID-19 can be life-threatening for some patients.

Some children are at higher risk for serious illness with COVID-19. Conditions or factors that may increase your child’s risk include:

  • Cancer
  • Immune disorders
  • Chronic health conditions such as lung or heart problems
  • Obesity
  • Certain treatments that weaken the immune system
  • Bone marrow transplant
  • Sickle cell disease

In children with sickle cell disease, COVID-19 can cause:

  • Fever
  • Repeated pain crises
  • Severe pneumonia
  • Other lung problems

If your child has a weak immune system, it is important to take steps to prevent illness. Call your doctor if your child has been exposed to COVID-19 or has symptoms.

How to prevent COVID-19

Wear a mask as instructed

Wear a mask or face covering as your doctor recommends. If your child is immunocompromised, ask your care team about the type of mask needed and instructions for use.

Take steps to prevent illness

Simple steps can help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and protect against illness.

  • Wash hands often using soap and water. Or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Stay away from people who are sick.
  • Talk to your doctor about the risk of COVID-19 and your child’s health needs.
  • Know what to do if symptoms develop. Call ahead before going to a care provider except in an emergency. Know about COVID-19 warning signs that require emergency care.

Get the COVID-19 vaccine

The COVID-19 vaccine is a safe, effective way to prevent severe COVID-19. Everyone who is eligible should get vaccinated against COVID-19.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone 6 months and older get an updated COVID-19 vaccine.

Side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine are usually mild and include soreness, swelling at the injection site, and body aches. These side effects may occur within the first 3 days of vaccination and resolve within 1–2 days.

If your child has a weak immune system, your health care provider may recommend additional doses of vaccine. Talk with your care team about the vaccine recommendations for your child’s medical needs.

coloring book cover with vaccine

"COVID-19 Vaccines" Coloring Book

The coloring book is a fun way for children to learn about COVID-19 vaccines and how they work.

View and Download
 

Get the latest information on COVID-19 and COVID-19 Vaccines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

COVID-19 tips for families

  • The COVID-19 vaccine is the best protection against COVID-19. It is available for everyone 6 months and older.
  • Everyone who is eligible should be up to date for the COVID-19 vaccine unless they had a severe allergic reaction to a previous dose of the vaccine or to an ingredient in the vaccine or have another health condition that prevents them from being vaccinated.
  • Make sure you have extra medicines and medical supplies on hand in case you must stay home due to illness or isolation. 
  • Watch for symptoms of COVID-19 illness, especially if you might have been exposed to the virus.
  • Talk to your care team about your child’s risk and know what to do if they develop symptoms.

Questions to ask the care team

  • What should I do if my child has symptoms of COVID-19?
  • What is the difference between COVID-19 and the flu illness?
  • How does COVID-19 affect children with weak immune systems?
  • What are the COVID-19 vaccine recommendations for my child?
  • When should my child get a COVID-19 vaccine?
  • What are the side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine?

Key points about COVID-19

  • COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) is caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
  • COVID-19 is a respiratory illness that affects the lungs, nose, and throat.
  • The COVID-19 vaccine is a safe, effective way to prevent severe COVID-19.
  • Children with weak immune systems are at a higher risk for severe COVID-19.
  • Talk to your care team about your child’s risk and when to seek medical care.


Reviewed: January 2024