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COVID-19 illness in children

Information on COVID-19 illness and outcomes in children.

Last updated: November 10, 2022


COVID-19 will continue to circulate in our population. When COVID-19 spreads in our communities, it can also spread in settings such as schools, childcare facilities, and other places where people get together. 

The spread of COVID-19 has changed over time. Earlier COVID-19 variants were less likely to spread in schools, as described in earlier research and surveillance data. Recent variants, such as omicron, spread more easily in all parts of the community. While various preventive measures and restrictions have been used at different times during the pandemic, high levels of immunity within our communities against severe disease has allowed us to transition to managing COVID-19 as we do other serious respiratory infections. It is also still important to practise personal prevention measures, such as hand hygiene and staying home when you are sick and unable to fully participate in regular activities.

Although the omicron variants spread more easily, children continue to be at low risk of getting very sick and requiring hospitalisation with COVID-19. BCCDC continues to monitor data on how many children require admission to hospital for COVID-19 and experience severe disease.

While most young people are not likely to get very sick from COVID-19, some will. Being vaccinated for COVID-19 is the best way to protect young people from COVID-19. While many children in the province have developed some immune response to COVID-19 through exposure to the virus, vaccination still provides additional protection.

Check with your healthcare provider or community health centre if you have any questions about your child's health and COVID-19. Getting routine and emergency medical care for your child is important for their health and wellbeing. Offices, clinics and hospitals have procedures in place to prevent COVID-19. 

If your child is sick

Learn about what to do if your child has tested positive for COVID-19 on the If you have COVID-19 page. 

COVID-19 symptoms for children

Children may show COVID-19 symptoms differently than adults. For example, fatigue or tiredness may look like not eating well, not being as active or acting differently. Find out more on the Fever or Chills HealthLink BC page. 

Think about what is usual or unusual about your child’s specific symptoms for them. For example, a child may have a mild fever, irritability and a runny nose due to teething. A young person may also have a runny nose due to seasonal allergies or other respiratory illnesses. 

Visit the Symptoms page to find common symptoms for COVID-19.

When to get tested

If your child has COVID-19 symptoms, check if they need testing. B.C. offers two options for COVID-19 testing in children and youth. Most school-age children can use the mouth rinse and gargle COVID-19 test. 

When to seek urgent care

If your child develops severe symptoms, such as:

  • difficulty breathing
  • struggling to breathe
  • speaking in single words
  • difficult to wake up
  • not peeing
  • chest pain

Call 9-1-1, your local emergency number or go to the nearest Emergency Department or urgent care centre.

Visit the Symptoms and How it spreads pages to learn more.

Skin lesions

“COVID toes” or chilblain-like lesions, are one of several skin lesions seen in COVID-19. These skin lesions are specific rash and are usually seen in children or young people. They are not linked to severe diseases.

The skin lesions can happen later in the illness. They often don't need any specific treatment. If they are causing pain or itching, see your healthcare provider. They may prescribe a topical steroid cream for symptom relief.


MIS-C

Multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C) is a rare inflammatory syndrome linked to COVID-19. Symptoms can include rashes, fever and swelling of the hands and feet. MIS-C is rare and can appear several weeks after infection.

As of November 13, 2021, there have been 19 confirmed young people with MIS-C in B.C. Just over 40,000 0 to 19-year-olds have tested positive for COVID-19, which suggests MIS-C is rare in B.C. All children with MIS-C in B.C. are recovered or recovering.

MIS-C is caused by an exaggerated immune response, leading to severe widespread inflammation. Different parts of the body can become inflamed. For example:

  • the heart
  • gastrointestinal system
  • lungs
  • kidneys
  • brain
  • skin
  • eyes
  • lymph nodes

It can look like other known illnesses. Like toxic shock, Kawasaki disease and gastrointestinal illness.

All possible cases are reported to public health and investigated. Many reported cases are not linked to a COVID-19 infection and are due to other causes. 

BC Children's Hospital monitors any patients with symptoms that could be MIS-C.



Post-COVID-19 Condition

Long-term COVID-19 symptoms or Post-COVID-19 Condition

If your child still feels sick weeks or months after having COVID-19, it’s called Post-COVID-19 condition or “long COVID”. It may affect both children and adults. Early studies suggest post-COVID-19 condition is less common in children and young people than adults.

The best way to prevent Post-COVID-19 condition is to get vaccinated when eligible.

Post-COVID-19 condition symptoms can be different from COVID-19 symptoms. They can be mild to severe and can sometimes disappear and reappear. Some patients report that mental or physical overexertion may make the condition worse.

The Public Health Agency of Canada lists the most common symptoms in children: 

  • fatigue or tiredness
  • headaches
  • weight loss
  • muscle pain
  • sleep disturbances
  • stuffy or runny nose
  • difficulty thinking or concentrating

If you think your child may be experiencing Post-COVID-19 condition, speak to their health care practitioner. Watch this video about what to do if have long-term COVID-19 symptoms: 

postcovid19condition.png

Learn more on PHSA’s Post-COVID-19 Care & Recovery page. 




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