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COVID-19 symptoms in children

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If you’re a parent you might be anxious about your children catching COVID-19 and falling ill. The good news is: while children can get COVID-19, they tend to get less ill with the virus than adults do.

That said, it’s still a good idea to familiarise yourself with the symptoms of COVID-19 in children. If you suspect that your little one has the virus, you’ll need to get them tested as soon as possible.

COVID-19 symptoms in babies, toddlers and children

The symptoms of COVID-19 in babies, toddlers and children are the same as in adults. According to the NHS, the main symptoms to look out for are fever, continuous cough, and loss of taste and smell.


A fever is a high temperature. It’s a common symptom in adults and children who have the virus.

In children, a fever is usually classed as a temperature of 38°C or higher. Signs of a fever are your child feeling hot and sweaty on their back and/or chest. They might also tell you that they feel unwell.

On its own, a fever doesn’t necessarily point to COVID-19 but it can be a sign of other illnesses. If your child is under three months and has a temperature of 38°C, the NHS advises that you call 111 or your GP for advice.

It’s a good idea to buy a digital thermometer so you can keep track of your child’s temperature at home. Non-contact thermometers, like the iHealth thermometer can be used on the whole family too.

You can learn more about fevers in children on this page from the NHS.

New, continuous cough

If your child has developed a cough, and they’ve been coughing a lot, this could be a sign of COVID-19. A “continuous” cough is where you cough for more than an hour, or you have at least three coughing episodes in the space of a day.

A normal cough that’s not continuous isn’t considered a symptom of COVID-19.

Loss of taste and smell

One of the most distinctive symptoms caused by COVID-19 is the loss of taste and/or smell. The virus might also cause a change to your sense of taste or smell – in other words, food might taste different to normal.

This symptom might be harder to detect in children, but you might notice that they leave food they’d normally eat or seem less hungry. Depending on the age of your child they may be able to tell you if something tastes funny or different.

What should I do if my child is displaying COVID-19 symptoms?

The current NHS advice is that if your child is displaying any of the symptoms of COVID-19, they should try to avoid contact with other people and stay at home. If your child is displaying more severe symptoms, you should get medical advice. This page offers clear guidance on which types of symptoms require urgent care.

Should I send my child to school with a mild cough or cold?

If your child has a mild cough or a cold, but isn’t displaying one of the main symptoms of COVID-19, it should be safe to let them leave the house. Remember: the cough caused by the virus is continuous. This means your child will be coughing for long periods, not just occasionally.

What should I do if I think my child has been exposed to Covid-19?

If your child shows no symptoms, but they have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive, you can test them at home using a lateral flow test kit. Lateral flow tests can be ordered online and are available from local pharmacies.

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Should my child wear a mask?

In the UK, masks or face coverings are recommended in crowded and enclosed spaces where you are in contact with people you do not normally meet. Very young children shouldn’t wear masks for safety reasons. Older children are typically exempt from wearing masks, but they can wear them safely if they wish to. 

This guide from GOV.UK explains how to make your own face covering – this can be a fun activity to do with your little ones.

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