Last updated: February 10, 2020
Richard Honaker M.D.
Primary Care Physician
View Full Profile
Last week the coronavirus was declared a global health emergency by the World Health Organization (WHO) and today WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned that the world may be “dangerously” ill-prepared for a pandemic.
So what does this actually mean and do parents need to worry? We asked Dr. Richard Honaker for his medical advice on keeping young children safe during the coronavirus outbreak.
What is the CoronaVirus?
Coronaviruses are actually a group of viruses that includes the common cold as well as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV).
The Coronavirus strain that is making headlines is a Novel Coronavirus, which is a new strain that has not been seen in humans previously. This is because coronaviruses are zoonotic, which means they are transmitted between animals and humans.
Many will initially show no symptoms after exposure. According to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), a German government disease control and prevention agency, the new virus has an incubation period of 14 days.
If you are concerned you may have been exposed, a healthcare professional is able to take a phlegm sample and look for signs of a respiratory virus.
Symptoms of the Novel Coronavirus
Since we are deep into the cold and flu season, parents could worry that each cough or sneeze could indicate their child is infected with something more sinister than the common cold. Here are some common symptoms that can help determine the difference between a cold, the flu and the coronavirus.
Common coronavirus symptoms can include:
- Dry cough
- Shortness of breath
- Aching muscles
Less typical coronavirus symptoms:
- a build-up of Phlegm
- Coughing up blood-this indicates the airway is bleeding
Symptoms atypical for coronavirus:
- Sore throat
- Runny nose
While many of the symptoms closely mimic the common cold or flu, coronavirus can be serious. In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death.
How is Coronavirus spread?
There are many unknowns about how the novel coronavirus is spread. According to the WHO, many of the recommendations are based on how other coronaviruses are spead. Based on this, it is believed that the virus is spread through close personal contact (within 6 feet) of a person with the virus. It is believed that the virus is spread through respiratory droplets that are put into the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
At this time it is not known whether the virus is spread when a person comes into contact with a surface containing the virus and touches their face.
With this in mind, it is not believed that respiratory masks are effective in protecting oneself from the virus, as it is not believed to be airborne. It is believed to be more effective to maintain a distance of more than six feet from those who are coughing and sneezing.
Typically, those with respiratory viruses are the most contagious when they are showing the most symptoms. With this coronavirus, people have spread the virus from close personal contact when they were not experiencing any symptoms.
Read next: Advice from a doctor: Living with HPV
Do Parents Need to Worry?
While young children do have compromised immune systems, research shows that seniors have the highest risk of dying from the coronavirus. The preliminary fatality rate is only 3% which is low, but is concerning as the worldwide cases continue to rise.
What is a Bigger Risk: the CoronaVirus or the Flu?
There have been nearly 10,000 confirmed cases and 213 confirmed deaths attributed to the Novel Coronavirus, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Of these cases, 99% of the infections and all of the deaths have been in China.
In comparision, in the U.S. the flu is a much bigger threat. According to the CDC, there have already been up to 26 million cases of the flu this season, leading to hundreds of thousands of hospital admissions and up to 25,000 deaths. This has also not been what is considered a ‘severe’ flu season.
How Care we Protect our Kids?
The good news is that the prevention strategies for both the coronavirus and the flu are the same.
Remember that your baby’s immune system gets stronger at 3 months and is very good by about age three.
While there is no need to wear respiratory face masks, it is recommended to minimize public contact with strangers. Avoid contact with anyone experiencing flu-like symtpoms.
While hand sanitizer is not recommended for children, it can be a good tool for cleaning your own hands before handling your child if you are unable to wash your hands.
Practicing good hand washing techniques is also important for both you and your baby. Babies love to put their hands in their mouths so try as much as possible to make sure your baby’s hands are cleaned regularly.
Try to avoid touching your face as much as possible. The average person touches their face up to 3000 times a day. Germs enter the body very easily though the mouth, eyes and nose.
Avoiding touching your face as much as possible and wash your hands regularly. It is also best to use disposable towels when drying one’s hands afterward.
Also choose best practices if you become ill from spreading a virus to your child. Use a tissue when coughing or sneezing and dispose of it afterwards. Throughly cook all your meat and eggs. If at all possible avoid travel at this time.
Avoid the Waiting Room
Many parents don’t realize that in most cases, the common cold and flu does not require a trip to the doctor’s office. That is because virual infections do not require antibiotics, only bacterial infections do. Avoid your next trip to the doctor’s office by chatting with a doctor online within minutes from the comforts of home.
Your Doctors Online puts a doctor in your pocket 24 hours a day. You can chat with a real doctor within minutes. Ask your health questions, share your symptoms, and stay out of the waiting room.
Disclaimer: This article provides general information and is not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any disease or medical condition. If you require specific advice, please consult one of our medical professionals through the app. However, in case of an emergency, please call 911.
About Richard Honaker M.D.
“Your Doctor’s Online Helped me get Care after my C-section”
Jessica had an unplanned c-section after her son’s heart rate began to fall during ...Read more
Everything a Doctor Wants you to Know About Your First Month of Pregnancy
Everything a doctor wants you to know about the first month of your pregnancy. ...Read more
5 Tips to Avoid Back to School Germs from a Doctor
Avoid back to school germs with 5 best practice tips from a doctor. While many ...Read more