Mighty Blog

COVID-19 (coronavirus): What parents need to know

Last update: 6/9/2020

 General information

Coronavirus is a respiratory illness with symptoms like a loss of sense of taste or smell, scratchy throat, body aches, headaches, cough, or fever.

Experts believe it spreads from person to person, or any kind of close contact. It can also spread through surfaces, especially if a person touches something with the virus on it then touches their mouth, nose or eyes before washing their hands.

You can follow simple steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and other illnesses in your home:

  • Wash your hands with soap and warm water after using the bathroom, after coughing or sneezing, or before making food.
  • Avoid touching your face.
  • Social distancing is important. Try to stand 6 feet away from others, do not shake hands and avoid crowds.
  • The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) recommends cancelling or postponing gatherings and events.
  • Use tissues to cover your mouth when you cough. Immediately throw the tissues in the garbage – do not let them lay around or pile up.
  • Clean surfaces in your home with usual household cleaners and disinfectants.
  • Stay home from work or school when you are sick.

Tips to prevent the spread of COVID-19

Handwashing 101 – good vs. bad techniques

Handwashing 101 – soap vs. sanitizer

 Risk of COVID-19 in children

Yes, there are some reported cases of COVID-19 in children around the world. It does appear that they experience milder symptoms than adults do. Their symptoms are more like the common cold. In a small study of young children with COVID-19, none of them were in the intensive care unit or required a ventilator for breathing support.

“As we look at it more closely, [kids] do indeed get this virus. It appears they have a more mild case with it, or their system is better able to tolerate the infection than some of our older adults,” explained Dr. Emily Chapman, chief medical officer at Children’s Minnesota, in an interview with KARE-11.

In adults, those with underlying medical conditions, including asthma and diabetes, appear to be at higher risk for severe disease. It is too soon to know whether the same is true for children, and the teams at Children’s Minnesota will continue to watch the scientific literature closely on these questions.

If you have questions about how COVID-19 may affect you or your unborn baby, read COVID-19 and pregnancy: What expecting moms need to know written by experts from The Mother Baby Center.

If you have questions about whether it’s safe to breastfeed or pump breastmilk if you have been exposed to or diagnosed with COVID-19, read What new and expecting mothers need to know about breastmilk and coronavirus.

This is an ever-changing situation, but Children’s Minnesota is prepared to care for any children who are diagnosed. Patsy Stinchfield, CPNP, and senior director of infection prevention at Children’s Minnesota stated, “We have been preparing for COVID-19 for months and have a robust plan in place to care for any children who need us.”

We are taking precautions to limit the spread of COVID-19, including changing the visiting standards at our hospitals and closing some patient and family amenities. Please see our COVID-19 landing page for updates.

As experts learn more about COVID-19, they are learning of new complications related to the illness. One complication that may be especially concerning to parents is the possibility of children with COVID-19 also developing symptoms similar to an illness called Kawasaki disease. This new entity is being called multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C).

Read more about the possible relationship between MIS-C and COVID-19 here.

 What to do if your child seems sick

While the flu and COVID-19 have many overlapping symptoms, there are some key differences.


Affects the lower respiratory tract of a person’s lungs and produces symptoms like:

  • Difficulty breathing.
  • Chest pain.
  • Fever.
  • Pain while breathing.
  • Dry cough.


Affects the upper respiratory tract which means you will likely have:

  • Runny nose.
  • Cough.
  • Stuffy nose.
  • Sore throat.
  • Body aches.
  • Vomiting or diarrhea.

More information about the differences between the flu and coronavirus can be found here: Flu vs. coronavirus: What’s the difference and which one do I have?

  • If your child is a Children’s Minnesota patient (or a patient of a Children’s Health Network clinic), please call our COVID-19 Nurse Line at 952-99-COVID (952-992-6843). We urge you to stay home and call rather than immediately coming to the emergency room or clinic.
  • If your child is not a Children’s Minnesota or Children’s Health Network patient, or if you are worried about an adult, or if you have questions about the virus please call the MDH hotline at 651-201-3920.

To test someone for COVID-19, a mucus sample from your nose and back of your throat will be sent to the lab for testing.

Children’s Minnesota is following Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines on testing for COVID-19. This means testing is prioritized for patients who are hospitalized, health care workers, and those who live or work in congregate living settings such as nursing homes.

Children’s Minnesota is committed to family-centered care. Two parents or their designee are welcome at a child’s bedside 24-7, and are not restricted to visiting hours. Visiting adults may be requested to wear personal protective equipment, for example: Gown, gloves, mask. We will not routinely separate adults from a child, and any decision to do so would be made in careful collaboration, based on the unique circumstances of the family and child’s care needs.

 Living with children during the pandemic

Read How to talk with kids about COVID-19, written by two Children’s Minnesota child life specialists who are experts trained in helping kids understand complex medical issues. They have provided parents and caregivers tips on how to talk with kids about COVID-19. From helping your child understand new terms they may be hearing to things to consider while parenting during a time of high stress, our experts are here to help your family through this difficult time.

We understand that being stuck at home can be hard on kids’ and parents’ mental health. Dr. Sarah Jerstad, associate clinical director of psychological services at Children’s Minnesota St. Paul hospital, shares five tips to keep minds healthy during the COVID-19 outbreak:

  1. Stick to a schedule.
  2. Stay calm.
  3. Limit screen time.
  4. Give kids facts.
  5. Reach out for help.

Learn more about these tips: Five tips for mental health while schools are closed.

Children’s Minnesota also recently partnered with Behavior Checker®, a tool offered by our primary care and behavior health clinics designed to provide parents with simple solutions and encouragements for common behavior problems they may see with their children.

Working from home is an important part of slowing the spread of COVID-19 and “flattening the curve” in our community. Here are a few tips for parents working remotely while also caring for children:

  • Have a set routine for yourself and your family.
  • Create a productive work space for yourself to use during working hours.
  • Practice self-care.

Read more: Tips for working remotely while kids are home.

Other common questions

Eventually, COVID-19 could become a seasonal virus. However, we don’t anticipate the changing weather and summer heat will reduce the spread of the infection. Continue to take standard precautions, like frequently washing your hands and staying home when sick.

According to the World Health Organization, there is no evidence that companion animals or pets have been infected. It’s also unlikely that your pet can spread the virus.

Alexandra Rothstein