COVID-19 advice for parents of children with long term medical conditions

  • COVID-19 is a worry for all parents as there are currently no vaccines against the infection. Antiviral drugs are being tested in research studies but so far none have been shown to be effective in treating coronavirus. However, this situation may change.
  • Encouragingly, data from China and from Italy show that the infection is far milder in children than in adults, although we do not yet understand exactly why this is the case. Only 2 in every 100 diagnosed cases of coronavirus in China have been in children aged less than 18 years. From what we know so far, there have not been a large number of deaths in China even in children or teenagers who we would expect to be more at risk, such as those undergoing cancer treatment, with chest problems or with weakened immune systems.
  • However, specific groups of children who are at the highest risk of severe infection need to be shielded from others for at least the next 12 weeks to minimise the risk of them getting infected. Children that fall into this group are:
    - solid organ transplant recipients
    - children being treated for specific cancers (leukaemia, lymphoma), or having had a bone marrow transplant in the last 6 months or those on specific forms of immunotherapy
    - children with cystic fibrosis or severe asthma
    - children with rare genetic conditions that significantly increase their risk of infection or those on immunosuppressive therapy

    If you are not sure whether your child falls into this category, contact your child's consultant or specialist nurse who should be able to offer advice.
  • The virus is spread by droplets. The best way to reduce the risk of your child being infected is to:
    • Get them to wash your hands regularly with soap and water, especially after being in public places. They can use an alcohol sanitiser gel if soap and water is not available.
    • Try to avoid them touching their face, especially their eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands. This is how the virus will get from their hands into their body.
    • Avoid close contact with people who are unwell.
  • There is no treatment that has been proven to be effective for COVID-19 and children will not be swabbed unless they need to be admitted to hospital. If your child meets the criteria for COVID-19 (fever and/or new continuous cough), your whole family will need to self-isolate for 14 days.
  • Most children will be able to be managed at home with their usual treatments. Make sure you continue giving them all their regular treatments (including immunosuppression) as normal. Although there is no evidence showing that ibuprofen is associated with harm in children with COVID-19, until we have more information, we suggest that you avoid ibuprofen unless you have been told that paracetamol is not suitable for your child.
  • Fever and respiratory symptoms should be managed in exactly the same way as you would have done before COVID-19 came along. If you’re not sure if your child needs to be seen by a healthcare professional, click here to help you decide.
  • Don’t assume that just because your child has a fever, that they have COVID-19. The normal infections that make children unwell are still circulating and it’s really important to watch for signs of serious illness - if your child has any of the amber or red features, make sure that you seek help appropriately (even if this means taking them to hospital).
  • For more information about COVID-19, including how to talk to your child about COVID-19, click here. If you think that your child is unwell with moderate breathing problems (amber features) and might need to be seen, contact NHS 111 online or call NHS 111. If your child develops severe breathing problems (red features), call 999.
  • If your child is under a specialist team in the hospital and you are worried about issues relating to their long term condition, contact them in the usual way for further advice.
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