COVID 19 is currently in the headlines and is considered a public health emergency. This understandably can make parents and children worried, particularly if they have problems with their immune systems, are taking medicines which suppress their immune systems, or have other chronic illness. While it is true that worldwide it has already caused severe disease and death, the vast majority of people who catch the virus have a mild flu like illness – and many get no symptoms at all. In particular, children seem to get milder disease than adults, and most of the severe illness has been in older people who are already frail or have other long-standing conditions, such as type 2 diabetes, smoking related lung disease and heart disease.
What is COVID19?
COVID19 is caused by a new strain of a family of viruses called coronavirus. As a group, coronaviruses are common across the world. The most common strains are frequent causes of the common cold. Occasionally new strains of coronavirus arise which cause more serious disease in some people. COVID-19 is caused by one of these new strains.
What are the symptoms of COVID19?
Most people start with symptoms of a cold, particularly cough and fever. Those who get is more severely can get shortness of breath, or start to breath more quickly.
What is the treatment?
At present there are no treatments which have been shown to make a difference to the disease, although some medicines which have been used for other virus infections are being researched. If children need to come to hospital, the treatment is much the same as other virus infections affecting the lungs, such as giving oxygen and help with feeding and breathing.
How do people catch COVID19?
Like the common cold, coronavirus (COVID-19) infection is spread by coughs and sneezes, which produce droplets which other people breath in if they are within 2 meters of a person who is infected. It can also be spread by direct contact, such as touching hands, or something which an infected person has touched or is near them when they cough or sneeze. Touching the face, particularly the mouth or nose, after touching something which has been in contact with the virus allows it to get into the airways and lungs.
Is my child at risk?
So far, from the information that we know from places in the world where there have been a lot of cases, children do not seem to get severe disease. So far there have not been any reports of increased risk even in children who have problems with their immune systems, or have other chronic diseases such as asthma, heart disease, cystic fibrosis or type 1 diabetes.
This website gives you more information.
What can I do to protect myself and my child against CoVID19?
You can reduce the risk from all coronaviruses in the same way you can avoid any respiratory infections – with good basic hygiene. The most important part of this is washing your hands regularly. This guide to good hand washing might help:
As much as you can, try to avoid contact with people who have flu like illnesses or are unwell.
At present, there is no vaccine available, but make sure you are up to date with all the regular vaccinations, particularly Hib and pneumococcal vaccines (Prevnar 13).
Should my child / young person go to school?
As of 16 March, the Government advice is that all children and adults in the UK avoid all non-essential contact with people, working from home if possible and avoiding public spaces. Subsequent advice today states that all people aged 0-69, who have an underlying health condition and are instructed to get a flu jab each year should not be in large social gatherings. Therefore, in order to comply with this, even though currently many schools are staying open, children who are on immunosuppressive treatment should not be in large social gatherings, and this includes school environments. In addition, all unnecessary travel should be stopped.
Is it safe to come to hospital?
At the moment there is no reason to be worried about coming to your out-patient appointments or for routine investigations or operations. However, we would ask that anyone with coughs, colds or fever not to come unless they need urgent care, whether or not they have chronic conditions. Sometimes it might be possible to review you over the telephone rather than bringing you up to hospital, and if so, the team looking after you may contact you to arrange this.
It is possible that this advice may change over the next few weeks, but if so, we will contact you to make other arrangements.
If you or your child is unwell and needs to come to hospital, then it is important you come. Staff are well trained in dealing with people who have infections and those who need to be protected from infection, and plans are in place to make the risks of catching COVID while in hospital as small as possible.
What should I do if I think I or my child may have been exposed to COVID19?
If you are concerned that you may have been in contact with someone with COVID19, follow the online guide and advice here:
Or call NHS 24 on 111, especially if you or your child are getting symptoms.
What do I do if I or my child is taking medicines which suppress the immune system?
You should continue all usual medicines, as these are helping to keep you or your child healthy. This is the case even if you start to have a cold or flu-like symptoms, or you are taking steroids. However, if you have a high fever, you should contact NHS24 on 111, and hold off medicines until you get further advice. Within working hours you may also contact your specialist medical team for advice.
New information and advice is being produced all the time, so check with this website
Contact your medical team if you have further questions specific to your or your own child’s care.