COVID-19 Update

Updated as of May 12, 2021

  • Individuals ages 12 and older are currently eligible for the Pfizer vaccine in Georgia.
  • The Pfizer vaccine is the only vaccine formulation currently authorized for adolescents ages 12 to 17 years old.
  • You do not need a letter or documentation verifying your child’s condition. All Georgians ages 12 and older are eligible.
  • The Aflac Cancer and Blood Disorders Center of Children’s requests that if your child has received chemotherapy in the past six months or has had a bone marrow transplant (BMT) in the past two years, you should talk to your child's doctor before scheduling a vaccination appointment.

Learn more about the COVID-19 vaccines here.

Q&A with Drs. Andi Shane and Evan Anderson

COVID-19 is a new coronavirus that first began affecting people in 2019 and has quickly spread worldwide.

Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that commonly infect animals but can infect humans too. They usually attack the upper respiratory tract—nose, sinuses and throat. The coronaviruses get their name from the crown-like spikes on their surface, visible under a microscope (“corona” means crown in Latin). Some types of coronaviruses cause mild cold-like symptoms, while infections from coronaviruses like SARS or MERS can be more severe.

Scientists are still learning more information about this novel virus called SARS-CoV-2, a coronavirus that causes a disease known as COVID-19. Called “novel” because it’s never been seen before, it is thought to have been introduced from interaction with animals in a market in China in 2019.

What does COVID-19 mean for kids and teens?

Most children with COVID-19 have mild symptoms or have no symptoms at all.

However, some children can get severely ill from COVID-19, especially babies under 1 year old and children with underlying conditions.

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

Reported symptoms of COVID-19 have ranged from very mild to severe and even fatal. COVID-19 in most healthy children is mild and does not require hospital care.

Symptoms of COVID-19 can include:

  • Fever that is not responsive to fever-reducing medications
  • Shortness of breath from continued coughing
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Refusing liquids with decreased urine frequency
  • Crying without the ability to be consoled
  • Congestion
  • Fatigue
  • Sore throat
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • Behavior that is not normal for your child

Symptoms may appear two to 14 days after exposure to someone with COVID-19. In children, the most common symptoms are fever and cough.

My child has respiratory symptoms but does not seem to require medical care. What should I do?

The majority of people infected with COVID-19, including children, can safely recover with supportive care at home, which may include keeping your child hydrated, using fever-reducing medication (as recommended by your pediatrician) and encouraging bed rest. If your child has respiratory symptoms but is otherwise well, consider managing your child’s symptoms at home and contacting your doctor immediately if your child worsens. This way, you can keep from spreading the illness to others.

Note: If your child has a fever or cough, we highly recommend that your child stay home until the fever and other symptoms are gone for 24 hours. Staying home while sick protects your friends, loved ones and members of your community, some of whom may be at higher risk for illness.

When should my child see a doctor for COVID-19 symptoms?

Most children with COVID-19 have mild symptoms and do not require medical care. If your child has concerning symptoms, call your doctor or pediatrician to discuss next steps before going to a hospital, emergency department or urgent care.

If your child is having difficulty breathing, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency department.

What do I do if my child is exposed to COVID-19?

If your child is exposed to someone who has COVID-19, he should avoid others for 14 days or until he is cleared by his pediatrician. This means your child should stay at home unless he needs medical care. He may walk with you in secluded areas away from people or play in the backyard; however, your child should always avoid being around others who do not live in your home.

In addition, monitor your child closely for symptoms of COVID-19. If any develop, use our COVID-19 Pediatric Assessment Tool for next steps.

COVID-19 Pediatric Assessment Tool

This COVID-19 tool is meant to help parents answer two questions:

  • What should I do if my child has a fever and/or a cough?
  • What should I do if my child has been around someone with COVID-19, but my child has no symptoms?

When should my child get tested for COVID-19?

The following should be considered before taking your child to get tested for COVID-19:

  • Does your child have symptoms of COVID-19?
  • Has your child had close contact (within 6 feet for more than 15 minutes) with someone who has confirmed COVID-19?
  • Has your child’s pediatrician referred your child to get tested?

Because COVID-19 is a new disease, we are still learning about it, and some medical recommendations have changed since January 2020. But the basics remain: As we wait for vaccinations to roll out across the country, it is extremely important to wear a mask, to wash your hands and to maintain a safe distance from people who aren’t in your household.

Most children’s cases of COVID-19 will be mild, and they will recover safely at home without needing any medical care from a healthcare professional. But the disease can still be dangerous, especially among older people, so it’s important that we all work to contain its spread.

The virus that causes COVID-19 usually spreads through respiratory droplets from coughs or sneezes between people who are close together. People who are infected but do not have symptoms can also spread the virus to others. COVID-19 spreads less commonly through contact with contaminated surfaces.

The most important thing you and your family can do to help slow the spread of COVID-19 is to follow the three Ws:

  • Wear a mask.
  • Watch your distance—stay at least 6 feet (about two arm lengths) from others who don’t live with you, particularly in crowded areas.
  • Wash your hands—use soap and water for 20 seconds, or use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.

Social distancing is a practice to help stop or slow down the spread of a highly contagious disease like COVID-19. It is a way to deliberately increase the physical space between people to help avoid spreading illness, as staying at least 6 feet away from others can help lessen your chance of catching the virus that causes COVID-19.

Other examples of social distancing may include:

  • Working from home instead of the office.
  • Closing schools and/or switching to online classes.
  • Connecting with others digitally rather than in person.
  • Avoiding eating out or going to stores where there may be large crowds.

The term “social distancing” is critical for us in helping take on COVID-19 as a disease that’s impacting our community. The newer term we want to think about is “physical distancing.” We want to encourage you and your child to socialize through FaceTime or the computer with friends or family so that you maintain those connections, but what is key is avoiding direct contact with large groups of family or friends. We are encouraging staying away from community playgrounds and focusing on playing together in your backyard and keeping social groups at less than 10 people.

The best way to avoid infection is to avoid exposure. Here are a few things you can do to lower your risk of catching or spreading illness:

  • Put at least 6 feet of distance between yourself and others who do not live in your household.
  • Everyone over the age of 2 years should wear a mask covering his or her mouth and nose in public settings and when around people who do not live in the same household.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, and then throw the tissue in the trash. Wash your hands or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer after touching tissues. If you don’t have a tissue, cough or sneeze into the inside of your elbow.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces, such as doorknobs, tables and handrails, to help prevent the spread of germs.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home if you are sick, unless you or your child needs medical care.
  • Avoid gatherings of more than 10 people.

Families are encouraged to plan and make decisions that will help protect members of your household during the COVID-19 pandemic. We recommend your family:

  • Gather up-to-date information about local COVID-19 activity from public health officials.
  • Ask neighbors what their plans include if someone gets sick.
  • Create a list of organizations you can contact in case you need access to healthcare providers, support or resources, in addition to family, friends, neighbors, carpool drivers, teachers and employers.
  • Consider family members who may be at a greater risk, such as adults older than age 60 and those with a serious underlying medical condition.
  • Choose a room in your home that can be used to separate sick family members from others.
  • Take everyday steps to prevent the virus, such as keeping surfaces disinfected, washing hands and avoiding sharing personal items.
  • Watch for symptoms in healthy family members.

Older adults and anyone with certain serious underlying medical conditions like lung disease, heart disease or diabetes are at a higher risk for developing more serious complications from COVID-19. They should seek care as soon as symptoms start.

Staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others from COVID-19. It is best to postpone nonessential travel. Although it may be difficult not to see family and friends during the holiday season, limiting in-person contact now will protect your loved ones and the community.

If travel is necessary, we recommend taking the following precautions:

  • Wear a mask over your nose and mouth.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizers with at least 60% alcohol before you leave and when you arrive at your destination.
  • Try to maintain 6 feet from people who do not live in your household.

Learn more about traveling with unvaccinated children

Caring for someone who has COVID-19 in your home can help stop the spread of the virus and protect those who are at risk for developing serious symptoms from COVID-19. We recommend:

  • Staying home and avoiding being around others as much as possible.
  • Keeping the ill person in a separate room and away from others in the household. This includes having them use a separate bathroom, if possible.
  • Closely monitoring the health of the person who is sick to make sure symptoms don’t worsen.
  • Preventing the spread of germs by:
    • Disinfecting surfaces every day that are often touched, such as countertops, tabletops and doorknobs.
    • Washing hands often.
    • Washing laundry thoroughly.
    • Avoiding sharing personal items like dishes, towels and bedding.
    • Avoiding touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Having both the person who is sick and anyone who is contact with him or her wear a face mask.
  • Providing symptomatic treatment, such as keeping the sick person hydrated and making sure he or she has access to over-the-counter medicines that may help with symptoms.

Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and its academic partners have been selected to help fast-track COVID-19 diagnostic testing, as well as to participate in a clinical trial for a COVID-19 vaccine.

As one of the nation’s leading pediatric research institutions, Children’s is well positioned to lead the way in this vitally important research. Every day, many of our clinicians and researchers are pushing forward with research that will lead to better understanding of and new treatments for this illness.