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When children have acute respiratory tract infections

Published

Many parents are unsure how to assess whether children with respiratory tract symptoms need to be kept at home. The NIPH has produced a flowchart to help them. Consult your doctor if you are concerned about your child.

Many parents are unsure how to assess whether children with respiratory tract symptoms need to be kept at home. The NIPH has produced a flowchart to help them. Consult your doctor if you are concerned about your child.


Symptoms of COVID-19 in children

Children of primary school age and younger are less likely to become sick from the new coronavirus. If they do become sick, they usually have a mild course of COVID-19 disease. Their symptoms are often mild and short-lived and can be difficult to distinguish from other respiratory tract infections.

Respiratory tract symptoms include coughs, sore throat, nasal congestion and a runny nose. Children with COVID-19 may not have a fever and cough. The youngest children often do not complain of sore throats and body aches, but they may whine more than usual or they may not want to eat. This is called poor general condition.

When you are worried about your sick child

In most cases, children who are sick will not have COVID-19, but may have other infections or conditions that require treatment. If you are worried about your sick child, contact the health service to assess whether a doctor should examine them. Do not delay seeking medical attention due to concerns about COVID-19.

In general, the younger the child, the lower the threshold for contacting a doctor. Other reasons to contact a doctor are when the child has:

  • poor general condition (the child is lethargic and not their usual self)
  • difficulty breathing and / or breathing faster than normal when at rest
  • fever in combination with respiratory tract symptoms and / or feeling unwell

When should children with respiratory tract symptoms be kept home from childcare / school?

If a child has had symptoms of a respiratory infection in the last 24 hours (newly arisen), they should be kept at home, especially if they have several symptoms at the same time or feel unwell. Exceptions are made for children at primary school and childcare who only have a runny nose and are otherwise in good general condition. They do not have to stay at home.

Children with only mild respiratory symptoms and no fever, can be observed at home for up to 48 hours. With rapid recovery, the child can return to childcare / school without being tested. If there is no improvement after 48 hours, contact the health service to assess whether the child needs to be examined by a doctor and/or tested for COVID-19.

2020-09-15 Flytskjema barn_engelsk.png
Flowchart to help parents assess whether their child should stay home from school/ childcare and when they should be tested for COVID-19..

When can children of primary school age and younger return to childcare / school?

A child’s general condition determines when they can return to childcare / school after a respiratory tract infection. This applies even if the child still has some residual symptoms such as a runny nose (regardless of the colour and consistency of the mucus) or a cough. These symptoms are common among young children after recovery from a respiratory tract infection.

As long as the residual symptoms are from a past infection, and are not newly arisen or becoming worse, the child can return to childcare / school when their general condition is good / back to normal for that child.

If the child has been tested, the test result must be available before they can return to childcare / school. Anyone who is diagnosed with COVID-19 must be in isolation and followed up by the healthcare service.

The child can return to childcare / school even if others in the family have respiratory tract symptoms. If others in the family have been diagnosed with COVID-19, the child must be quarantined and followed up by the healthcare service.

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