5 Tips for Keeping Your Child Safe From COVID at School

Children everywhere are heading back to school and in-person learning. It’s important to keep in mind that many communities continue to be affected by the COVID pandemic.

As of August 22, the risk that COVID poses—based on how many people are getting infected and need hospital care—is medium to high in more than 75% of communities nationwide.

Here are 5 ways to keep your child safe from COVID as they head back to school.

1. Get your child vaccinated as soon as possible

Vaccination is the best thing you can do to protect your child from the dangers of COVID.

Since vaccines became available, people of all ages—including children—who are up to date with their COVID vaccines have been less likely than unvaccinated people to get very sick from COVID.

Everyone 6 months or older should get vaccinated. Find COVID vaccines near you at vaccines.gov.

2. Keep your child home when they’re sick

If your child has COVID or COVID-like symptoms, they should stay home from school to reduce their chances of spreading the virus to others.

If your child tests positive for COVID, follow the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidance on when and how long to isolate.

3. Test to prevent spreading COVID to others

You should test your child for COVID immediately if they have symptoms.

If your child was exposed to someone with COVID and doesn’t have symptoms, wait at least 5 days to test them. You may get an incorrect result if you test them too soon after exposure.

If your child tests positive, that means they’re infected with COVID. They should isolate, and you should tell everyone they’ve recently had close contact with, to avoid spreading the virus to others.

4. Wear a mask

Regardless of whether your child is vaccinated, they should wear a mask around others at school when the risk that COVID poses to your community is high.

If your child has been exposed to COVID, they should wear a mask around others at school for 10 days following exposure.

Don’t send your child to school if they have COVID. But if they do go to school with COVID-like symptoms or develop symptoms while at school, they should wear a mask around others.

5. Encourage your child to wash their hands often

Handwashing removes germs from one’s hands. It helps prevent getting infections and spreading infectious diseases to others.  

Encourage your child to wash their hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Handwashing is especially important:

  • After you blow your nose, cough, or sneeze
  • Before and after you eat
  • After you use the restroom
  • After recess or playtime with others

If your child doesn’t have soap and water, they can use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Children 5 and younger should only use hand sanitizer with adult supervision.

Add ‘Get My Child Vaccinated Against COVID’ to Your Summer Plans

Great news: Our younger kids can now get vaccinated against COVID!

After a thorough review of the safety and effectiveness data from the clinical trials, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorized COVID vaccines for children ages 6 months through 4 years. That means that everyone as young as 6 months in the United States can now get the protection of a COVID vaccine.

Parents and guardians have been eagerly awaiting this news. Since the pandemic began, over 130,000 children under age 18 have been hospitalized and nearly 1,500 have died. This year, kids under 5 years old have been more likely than older kids to be hospitalized with COVID.

Also, as many as 1 in 4 children who get COVID experience long COVID, in which they have new or lingering symptoms that last for weeks or months after infection.

Many kids are also getting multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, or MIS-C, a rare but serious illness caused by COVID that involves painful swelling in different parts of the body, including the heart, lungs, and brain. Over 8,500 children with COVID have also had MIS-C; 69 of those children have died.

There’s no way to predict how COVID will affect your child if they get it. They might be one of the lucky ones and just have the sniffles, but the risk for more severe illness is very real. Even perfectly healthy children can get very sick from COVID. One study found that almost half of children ages 0–17 who’ve been hospitalized with COVID had no other health issues. That proportion was even higher among children under 5, according to another study

Vaccination is the best thing you can do to protect your child from the dangers of COVID

Since vaccines became available, people in all age groups, including children, who are up to date with their COVID vaccines have been less likely to test positive, be hospitalized, and die from COVID than unvaccinated people. Vaccinated people are also less likely to get MIS or MIS-C and long COVID.

There are two different vaccines available for children. The number of doses your child needs depends on their age and which vaccine they get. See the table below for details.

If your child is male and age 12 or older, they may benefit from waiting longer between the 1st and 2nd vaccine doses. Talk to your health care or vaccine provider. 

Once your child is up to date with their COVID vaccines, you can send them to school and to play with others, confident that they have the best possible protection against COVID.

Where to find COVID vaccines for children

COVID vaccines for kids are available at pediatricians’ and other doctors’ offices, community health centers, rural health clinics, children’s hospitals, public health clinics, local pharmacies, and other community-based organizations.

To find free COVID vaccines for your child, talk to your child’s pediatrician or your family doctor. You can also find vaccines for children near you at vaccines.gov.

4 Reasons You Should Vaccinate Your Child Against COVID-19

We Can Do This CDC Covid Vaccination

1. There’s no way to know if your child will get severely ill and even die from COVID-19

Since the pandemic began, one in six children under the age of 18 in the United States have been infected with COVID-19. Among those children, over 100,000 have been hospitalized and nearly 1,500 have died due to the virus.

COVID-19 can also cause multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, or MIS-C, a rare but serious illness that involves painful swelling in different parts of the body, including the heart, lungs and brain. Nearly 8,000 children with COVID-19 have also had MIS-C; 66 of those children have died.

Doctors say children with certain health issues—such as asthma, diabetes, obesity and sickle cell disease—have a greater chance of getting very sick from COVID-19.

But even perfectly healthy children can get very sick from COVID-19. A study published in the medical journal Pediatrics found that almost half of children hospitalized with COVID-19 had no other health issues. News outlets repeatedly run reports like this one in The Florida Times-Union of children with no known health issues dying from COVID-19.

2. Even a mild case of COVID-19 can leave your child with long-lasting health problems

Estimates vary, but as many as one in four children who get COVID-19 can have new or lingering symptoms that last for weeks or months after infection.

Common “Long COVID” symptoms in children include sleep problems, tiredness, headaches, trouble concentrating and joint and muscle pain.

Even kids in tip-top shape aren’t safe from the grip of long COVID. An article in STAT chronicled how one teenage gymnast went from training daily for hours to struggling to walk up a flight of stairs after contracting COVID-19.

3. Your child could spread COVID-19 to people who are in greater danger of severe illness

Children are just as likely as adults to get and spread COVID-19.  

If your child gets COVID-19, they could be putting other people at risk, especially if they live in a multigenerational household or interact with people with certain health issues.

Older adults and people of all ages—including children with health issues—are at the greatest risk of experiencing severe illness from COVID-19.  

4. It will be safer for your child to go to school and participate in sports and other group activities after vaccination

Vaccination is the best thing you can do to protect your child from the dangers of COVID-19.

Since vaccines became available, people in all age groups, including children, who are up to date with their COVID-19 vaccines have been less likely to test positive, be hospitalized, and die from COVID-19 than unvaccinated people. Vaccinated people are also less likely to get MIS-C and long COVID-19.

If your child is up to date with their COVID-19 vaccines, you can send them to school and to play with others, confident that they have the best possible protection against COVID-19.

Right now, everyone ages five and older can get vaccinated. Find COVID-19 vaccines near you at Vaccines.gov.

If you have any questions or concerns about vaccinating your child, talk to your child’s health care provider!

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We Can Do This is the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ COVID-19 Public Education Campaign. Get more info and resources at WeCanDoThis.HHS.gov.