Ask a Pediatrician: What Should I Do When My Child Has a Common Cold During COVID-19?

You ask, we answer. In each edition of “Ask a Pediatrician,” Connecticut Children’s pediatric experts respond to a question from our community.

This week, infectious disease pediatrician John R. Schreiber, MD, MPH, tackles a popular topic for this back-to-school season.

My child has a runny nose but no fever, and I’m sure it’s just a cold. Last year, I would’ve sent them to school. What do I do this year?

Dr. Schreiber: A lot of parents will be asking this – especially as we get further into the fall and winter seasons when common colds become, well, common.

In the past, if kids didn’t have a fever (above 100.4 degrees) and felt well enough to go to school or day care, you might’ve sent them in.

But in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, as we all work to keep each other safe, you’ll need to have a different plan. COVID-19 can be hard to spot. Especially in kids, it often shows up as very mild (or no) symptoms. In other words, there is a chance that your child’s runny nose is a clue they have the virus. You’ll need to take extra precautions right now.

Mom holds tissue as boy blows his nose

So if your child wakes up with a runny nose, cough, congestion, vomiting, diarrhea or stomach pain – whether or not they have a fever, and even if your gut tells you it’s just a common cold or allergies – please start by keeping them home from school or day care.

Then call your child’s primary care pediatrician.

They’ll help you decide what to do next, depending on your child’s symptoms and health information. They may recommend a COVID-19 test, especially if cases rise in the community. Or they may simply recommend that you keep your child home until symptoms go away, and do your best to quarantine them from other members of the household.

You can also call our 24-hour Pediatric COVID-19 Hotline at 833.226.2362 to speak to one of our clinicians. We’re available to help, any day, any time.

Have a question for our pediatricians? Let us know at socialmedia@connecticutchildrens.org.

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