COVID-19 and kids: Your questions, answered

Are kids immune to the virus that causes COVID-19?

Kids are not immune to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. When they do contract the infection, however, they seem to have fewer symptoms and less severe disease than adults do.

Are the symptoms of COVID-19 different in children than in adults?

The symptoms of COVID-19 are similar in children and adults. However, children with confirmed COVID-19 have generally presented with mild symptoms. Reported symptoms in children include cold-like symptoms, such as fever, runny nose and cough. Vomiting and diarrhea also have been reported. While children may have milder symptoms and may not have fever or cough as often as adults, more severe illness can still develop.

How can I protect my child from COVID-19 infection?

COVID-19 is thought to spread from person to person through respiratory droplets – for example, when an infected person coughs or talks and their droplets are inhaled by those around them.

The best way to protect your child from catching the virus is to keep them away from people who are sick and limit contact with other people who are not living in the same household. Children and adults need to wash their hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds – you can teach your child to sing “Happy Birthday” twice while they wash. When you cannot wash your hands, hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol is a good alternative. Disinfecting surfaces and laundering items, including washable plush toys, may also be helpful, although these are not the most likely ways that the virus is spread.

Should children wear masks or face coverings?

Children older than 2 should wear masks if they are out in public and in places where it would be difficult to maintain 6 feet of distance from others. If they are outside and are able to keep distance from others, they do not need to wear a mask. The main purpose of the homemade face coverings is to reduce the risk that an infected but asymptomatic person can infect others. It also can protect an uninfected person from catching the infection, but to a lesser extent.

If your child is resistant to wearing a mask or face covering, you can teach them that they are protecting others. You also can show them pictures or videos of other children and people in the community wearing them. Children younger than 2 should not wear masks or face coverings because there is a risk of suffocation or strangulation. Children should never sleep with masks on.

What is the risk of my child becoming sick with COVID-19?

Children have a similar risk of contracting the virus as the rest of the population, but  their risk of becoming severely ill is less than an adult. Those children who have medical conditions like chronic lung disease or cardiac disease, or who are immunocompromised, may be at higher risk of becoming very sick. It is important for children with chronic illnesses to avoid contact with those who are ill and to be in close contact with their doctors if they exhibit suggestive symptoms.

A new rare, but serious, condition called Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C) appears to be associated with COVID-19 and has been in the news a lot. Learn more here.

If you have questions or concerns about your child and COVID-19, reach out to their primary care clinic or contact OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital at 503-346-0640.

How can our family spend time outdoors safely?

We encourage families to spend time outdoors, however remember the rules of physical distancing:

  • Avoid crowded areas.
  • Maintain 6 feet distance from others.
  • Wear a mask or face covering when you can’t maintain distance reliably.
  • Avoid common play areas or surfaces like park benches and restrooms.

You and your child should wash your hands as soon as you come back home and before eating or touching your face. Use hand sanitizer when you are unable to wash your hands.


Angela-Tu Nguyen, M.D.
Assistant Professor of Pediatrics
Oregon Health & Science University
Doernbecher Children’s Hospital