What is Coronavirus (COVID-19)?
Coronavirus (COVID-19), pronounced “kr-ow-nuh-vai-ruhs” is a new respiratory illness that has never been seen in humans before. Symptoms are usually mild and similar to a cold or the flu. They typically appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus. Initially, symptoms of COVID-19 only included cough, shortness of breath, and fever. However, it’s likely that you have COVID-19 if you have at least 2 of the following symptoms: fever, chills, repeated shaking with chills, muscle pain, sore throat, and/or new loss of taste or smell. It’s important to remember people with respiratory diseases such as asthma or cystic fibrosis, those with a weakened immune system, or people over the age of 60 years old may experience severe symptoms that could be life-threatening.
How do people get this virus?
The virus is found in an infected person’s mucous, saliva and/or sputum (secretions from the lungs). COVID-19 spreads when an infected person sneezes or coughs close to a non-infected person. The virus can also be spread by touching contaminated objects or surfaces.
How is COVID-19 affecting children and teens?
Every day, health care providers (HCPs) and scientists are learning more information about COVID-19 from symptoms to treatment methods. Originally, COVID-19 was not seen frequently in children and teens, but we are seeing a rising number of cases in young people. As of the end of December 2020, over 2 million children and teens have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in the US.
Severe illness due to COVID-19 continues to be rare in children and teens. However,HCPs have seen a very small number of children and teens develop an inflammatory (swelling) response known as, “Pediatric Multi-System Inflammatory Syndrome.” Symptoms to watch for include fever, rash, swelling (hands, feet, and tongue), vomiting, and diarrhea. If you experience any these symptoms, call your HCP right away. It’s very important to stress that this syndrome can attack the heart and blood vessels, causing them to swell limiting the passage of blood through them. Many of these symptoms are similar to a rare pediatric inflammatory illness called Kawasaki “Kah-wah-sah-kee,” a serious but treatable illness usually seen in young children. It’s important to remember, many children and teens who develop this syndrome may never show the classic signs of COVID-19. The throat or nasal swab may be negative for COVID-19, but the blood test for antibodies to the virus may be positive (meaning that you have been exposed to the virus). The big take away here is this syndrome is treatable (when caught early) and is affecting a very low number of children and teens worldwide, but it’s important to know the signs and symptoms, just in case.
How can a person tell if they have COVID-19?
The only way a person can tell for sure if they have COVID-19 is by seeing a health care provider (HCP), who will then perform a special test. Some places have testing centers where people can make appointments for testing. If you have been exposed to a person with the virus or you are experiencing mild respiratory symptoms and fever, call your HCP will determine if you need testing. According to the CDC, it is OK to take over-the-counter medications such as NSAIDs (ibuprofen, naproxen), or acetaminophen (Tylenol) for symptom management such fever or pain.
Anytime anyone is very sick or having breathing problems, they should see their health care provider or go to the closest emergency room right away.
Can COVID-19 be prevented?
There are ways to lower a person’s risk for getting infected with the COVID-19 virus (as well as many other illnesses that are spread from person to person).
- Avoid being around people who are sick. Don’t kiss, hug or share cups or silverware with others.
- Practice social distancing (maintaining at least 6 ft. between you and other people, even while wearing a mask)
- Don’t shake hands with others
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Try counting to 20 by saying “one one thousands, two one thousands…” or sing “Happy Birthday” twice!
- Use hand sanitizer when you can’t wash your hands
- Cover your mouth and nose when you sneeze or cough, then wash your hands when you are able
- Avoid touching your nose, mouth, or eyes
- Change your clothes after going out in public
- Wash your face after going out in public
- Clean surfaces with a disinfectant when anyone in your family is sick.
- Wear a mask covering your nose and mouth when you are out
- Get your flu shot!
If you have asthma, you should also:
- Review and update your asthma plan with your health care provider.
- Take your preventive medicine to control your breathing if directed to do so by your HCP
There are currently two vaccines available in the US – Pfizer-BioNTech (approved for those 16 and older) and Moderna (approved for those 18 and older). These are the names of the companies that developed each vaccine. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is two-dose series 21 days apart and the Moderna vaccine is two-dose series 28 days apart. There are other vaccines still being developed as well, which may have different schedules. It’s important to receive the full series as recommended to ensure immunity.
They are both mRNA vaccines – essentially mRNA is a blueprint for the cell on how to make a piece of the spike protein unique to SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19). Since only a piece of the protein is made, it does not do any harm to the person who is vaccinated. The cell then creates the protein and displays it on the cell surface – where the immune system goes to work creating antibodies and activating T-cells to fight off what it thinks is an infection. This is also why some people may feel sick after receiving the vaccine. It’s your body learning how to fight and should resolve in a day or two. If you continue to feel unwell, or have any questions, reach out to your HCP.