What to do if your child comes down with COVID-19, according to an MGH expert

“Don’t panic”—the pediatrician details steps to take for parents of children experiencing COVID-19 symptoms.

This month, more U.S. children have been hospitalized with COVID-19 than at any other point in the pandemic

However, COVID-19 continues to primarily affect adults, especially older adults. Last week saw a peak in new child hospitalizations, with 1.25 hospitalizations for every 100,000 children in the population. To put that into perspective, the adult peak, also last week, saw 21.35 new admissions per 100,000 people.

Although new hospitalizations have begun to fall in recent days, pediatric doctors understand that this is a particularly challenging time for parents of young children, especially those kids with underlying medical conditions who continue to remain at a higher risk for severe illness than their peers.


Dr. Scott Hadland, chief of adolescent medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital, said he’s been fielding a lot of parent questions lately, and took to Twitter yesterday to give his best advice on what to do if your child develops COVID-19 symptoms with this thread.

If a rapid antigen test comes back positive, he said, assume it’s COVID. And if it comes back negative, get another antigen or PCR test the next day, since false negatives are possible, especially with antigen tests taken early on in an infection.

If one or more children test positive while other household members remain negative, he suggests wearing masks around the house, using separate bathrooms, and having COVID positive and negative family members sleep in separate rooms, if possible.

In general, he encouraged trying to isolate from one another, but “as a dad, I know this isn’t super realistic,” he said. “So do the best you can.”

Get children five and older vaccinated, Hadland said, and children 12 and up boosted, as this is the best way to prevent serious illness and hospitalizations. “…It’s critical to get kids vaccinated & keep them out of hospitals,” he said. “We want kids with emergencies (e.g., appendicitis) to have hospital beds to go to when they need them.”

While omicron has caused record numbers of pediatric hospitalizations, it’s still a relatively ‘mild’ illness in children most of the time, Hadland said.

Still, he emphasized the importance of “doing our part,” as pediatricians nationwide work to keep the number of child hospitalizations low.

“Isolate if ill, get yourself & loved ones vaccinated, and let us healthcare professionals manage the broader crisis,” he said.

Hadland’s number one piece of advice? “Don’t panic.” Children almost always recover well, and healthcare professionals are more than happy to give advice to concerned parents of COVID-positive children.


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