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Coronavirus (COVID-19) symptoms in children

Children and young people aged 18 and under can get coronavirus (COVID-19), but it's usually a mild illness and most get better in a few days.

Symptoms of COVID-19 can include:

  • a high temperature or shivering (chills) – a high temperature means you feel hot to touch on your chest or back (you do not need to measure your temperature)
  • a new, continuous cough – this means coughing a lot for more than an hour, or 3 or more coughing episodes in 24 hours
  • a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste
  • shortness of breath
  • feeling tired or exhausted
  • an aching body
  • a headache
  • a sore throat
  • a blocked or runny nose
  • loss of appetite
  • diarrhoea
  • feeling sick or being sick

The symptoms are very similar to symptoms of other illnesses, such as colds and flu.

What to do if your child has symptoms

Your child should try to stay at home and avoid contact with other people if they have symptoms of COVID-19 and they either:

  • have a high temperature
  • do not feel well enough to go to school, college or childcare, or do their normal activities

They can go back to school, college or childcare when they feel better or do not have a high temperature.

If your child has mild symptoms such as a runny nose, sore throat or mild cough, and they feel well enough, they can go to school, college or childcare.

Encourage your child to cover their mouth and nose with a tissue when they cough or sneeze, and to wash their hands after using or throwing away tissues.

Most children who are unwell will recover in a few days with rest and plenty of fluids.

There is guidance for people with COVID-19 symptoms and other respiratory infections on GOV.UK.

Information:

There's more advice:

Help from NHS 111

Get help from NHS 111 if you're worried about your child or not sure what to do.

What to do if your child seems very unwell

Children and babies will still get illnesses that can make them very unwell quickly. It's important to get medical help if you need it.

Urgent advice: Call 111 or your GP surgery if your child:

  • is under 3 months old and has a temperature of 38C or higher, or you think they have a fever
  • is 3 to 6 months old and has a temperature of 39C or higher, or you think they have a fever
  • has other signs of illness, such as a rash, as well as a high temperature (fever)
  • has a high temperature that's lasted for 5 days or more
  • does not want to eat, or is not their usual self and you're worried
  • has a high temperature that does not come down with paracetamol
  • is dehydrated – for example, nappies are not very wet, sunken eyes, and no tears when they're crying

Immediate action required: Call 999 if your child:

  • has a stiff neck
  • has a rash that does not fade when you press a glass against it (use the "glass test" from Meningitis Now)
  • is bothered by light
  • has a seizure or fit for the first time (they cannot stop shaking)
  • has unusually cold hands and feet
  • has pale, blotchy, blue or grey skin
  • has a weak, high-pitched cry that's not like their usual cry
  • is drowsy and hard to wake
  • is extremely agitated (does not stop crying) or is confused
  • finds it hard to breathe and sucks their stomach in under their ribs
  • has a soft spot on their head that curves outwards
  • is not responding like they usually do, or not interested in feeding or usual activities

Page last reviewed: 24 October 2022
Next review due: 24 April 2023