Coronavirus symptoms: Does the virus affect children differently to adults? How to spot it

Coronavirus death toll has risen to six in the UK, a number that is expected to rise in the coming weeks as the virus gains a significant foothold in the country. The UK government is expected to implement a new nationwide policy to minimise the impact of the epidemic in the next 10 to 14 days. According to the UK’s Chief Medical Officer, people who show “even minor” signs of respiratory tract infections or a fever will soon be told to self-isolate in an effort to reduce the rate of transmission.


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Most of the attention has focused on the elderly and other at-risk groups but how can you spot symptoms in children and how do they compare to infected adults?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), limited reports of children with COVID-19 in China have described cold-like symptoms, such as fever, runny nose, and cough.

Gastrointestinal symptoms (vomiting and diarrhoea) have been reported in at least one child with COVID-19, however.

These limited reports suggest that children with confirmed COVID-19 have generally presented mild symptoms, and though severe complications (acute respiratory distress syndrome, septic shock) have been reported, they appear to be uncommon.

If you recognise reported the symptoms in your or your child, the first step you should take is to call the NHS 111.

The NHS 111 is an online coronavirus service that can tell you if you need medical help and advise you what to do.

As the NHS explains, you should avoid your GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital as this could increase the rate of transmission among the general public.

If there’s a chance you could have coronavirus, you may be asked to stay away from other people (self-isolate).

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This means you should:

  • Stay at home
  • Not go to work, school or public places
  • Not use public transport or taxis
  • Ask friends, family members or delivery services to do errands for you
  • Try to avoid visitors to your home – it’s OK for friends, family or delivery drivers to drop off food

According to the NHS, you may need to do this for up to 14 days to help reduce the possible spread of infection.

Is there anything I can do to reduce the risk of catching and spreading the virus?

The most important steps to minimise the threat is to wash your hands with soap and water often, and do this for at least 20 seconds.


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You should repeat this practice when you get home or into work, advises the NHS.

You should also:

  • Always wash your hands when you get home or into work
  • Use hand sanitiser gel if soap and water are not available
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when you cough or sneeze
  • Put used tissues in the bin straight away and wash your hands afterwards
  • Try to avoid close contact with people who are unwell
  • It is also important to not touch your eyes, nose or mouth if your hands are not clean, warns the NHS.

Coronavirus – what is the UK latest?

According to Public Health England (PHE), as of 9am on 10 March 2020, 26,261 people have been tested in the UK, of which 25,888 were confirmed negative and 373 were confirmed as positive.

Six patients who tested positive for COVID-19 have died.

Based on the World Health Organization’s declaration that this is a public health emergency of international concern, the UK Chief Medical Officers put the current risk level in the UK from low to moderate.

PHE says to stay indoors and avoid contact with other people if you’ve travelled to the UK from the following places, even if you do not have symptoms:

  • Anywhere in Italy on or after 9 March
  • Specific areas in northern Italy in the last 14 days
  • Iran in the last 14 days
  • Hubei province in China in the last 14 days
  • Daegu, Cheongdo or Gyeongsan in South Korea in the last 14 days

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