Talking to kids about COVID-19
We are living in unusual and testing times. Many of us have had our work disrupted and have had to learn how to home-school our kids, and all of us are living with change and uncertainty. The information and advice about the coronavirus pandemic can feel confusing and overwhelming, and it is difficult to find the words to explain about COVID-19 to our children or answer their questions. We’ve put together some simply expressed information and language, that you can use when talking with your children to help them understand, or for older kids to read.
What is COVID-19?
- COVID-19 is a disease caused by a new germ or bug.
- Germs are tiny organisms that live in our environment.
- They can make us sick if they get in our bodies.
- Germs are so small and sneaky that they creep into our bodies without being noticed.
- In fact, germs are so tiny that you need to use a microscope to see them. We don’t know they have got into our bodies until we get symptoms, such as a high temperature, a sore throat, coughs, sneezes, achy muscles, and generally feeling unwell. However, we may not get symptoms at all.
- The germ that causes COVID-19 is a type of virus.
- Viruses cause things like chickenpox, measles and flu, when viruses get inside people’s bodies, they can spread and make people sick.
- The germ that causes COVID-19 spreads easily from person to person and infects the breathing system, our nose, throat and lungs.
How does it spread?
- It is passed from person to person through tiny droplets.
- When an infected person coughs or sneezes, these tiny droplets can be breathed in by others who are close by.
- The droplets might also land on surfaces, like phones, door handles, tables and hands. If we touch these things and then touch our eyes, mouth or nose, the germ can get inside our body.
- Some people can have the disease for 14 days without feeling sick, and some people can have the disease without showing symptoms at all. When people don’t show signs or symptoms, they don’t know to isolate. If they go out, they can pass it on to others without knowing.
What can we do to help stop/slow down the spread of disease?
When someone who has COVID-19 coughs or sneezes, they can pass the disease on to other people nearby.
But the germ/virus can only travel short distances through the air.
Keeping a distance from other people of 1.5 metres or more makes it harder for the virus to spread.
Cover sneezes and coughs
Cough or sneeze into your elbow or onto a tissue and throw it away. If you have the disease, this prevents the germ getting into the air and lowers the chances of it being passed on.
Then wash your hands!
Wash Your hands
Droplets from an infected person might land on surfaces (phones, door handles, tables and hands). So, it is important to wash your hands regularly.
For example, say you are at the mall and need to use the public toilets, and the person before you was carrying the virus, and when they left the cubicle a droplet landed on the door handle, when you touch the door handle you may then pick up the virus.
But, if you wash your hands for 20 seconds in warm soapy water (singing the song ‘Happy Birthday’ to yourself twice, is about 20 seconds), this will kill the virus before it gets into your body.
Follow these 6 steps when handwashing to make sure you clean them thoroughly:
You can apply moisturizer or hand cream afterwards to stop your hands getting sore and chapped.
For more information and to watch a demonstration see – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2eqhw6yZk-c
Don’t touch your face
The virus gets into your body through a person’s mouth and lungs. The virus won’t get into your body if it is on your hands, but if you put your hand to your face, it can get into your body through your mouth or nose. Always wash your hands before making or eating food.
Avoid touching/shaking hands, hugs and kisses –
Our hands pick up all sorts of germs through the day, and people can carry the virus that causes COVID-19 on their hands. If you shake hands with someone who is carrying the virus, it can be passed onto your hand.
If you then touch your face you could get sick.
It is quite difficult not to touch your face, it is something we do automatically and without thinking.
However, if we do things to stop it getting onto our hands in the first place, then if we do touch our face it won’t matter. It is easier to remember not to shake hands with someone else than it is to remember not to touch your face.
If you feel unwell stay at home, even more than you normally would, especially if you have a temperature or a cough or feel achy.
Do masks help?
Masks are especially helpful when you are out in public, such as shopping or on a bus, or visiting someone you don’t live with.
They help droplets not to get into the air and go to other people, or to float from other people to you.
Do hand sanitizers work?
Some work pretty well, but you have to let them dry completely. The best thing to use is soap and warm water for 20 seconds (whilst singing ‘Happy Birthday’ to yourself twice).
What are the symptoms?
Most people who get the virus won’t have symptoms or won’t be really sick, and won’t need to see a doctor or go to hospital. However, those who do have symptoms tend to get:
· A fever (high temperature);
· Get tired;
· Have achy muscles;
· And a lot of these people also get a cough;
· Some people have temporarily lost their sense of smell and taste.
· One thing that is not very common is sneezing.
If you have these symptoms, you won’t need to go to hospital, but if you can’t breathe, or you are having difficulties breathing, then you need to get medical help.
Most kids won’t get very sick if they get COVID-19. If they do it will be a bit like getting a cold. If you get these symptoms, you will just need to isolate yourself from other people as much as possible and you will recover.
However, the disease is more serious in old people and people who have other sicknesses already. We all need to do what we can to stop the germ spreading and keep it away from old/sick people.
There is no way to tell if someone has the virus if they are not showing symptoms. We’ve been told that some kids who’ve come from countries like China or Italy, or have families from there, are being teased or bullied. No one is more likely to catch the virus because of what they look like or where they are from. Anyone can catch it and anyone can spread it on, so be kind to everybody.
What should I do if I feel anxious about COVID-19?
Getting information and speaking to adults about your concerns can help you to feel better. The more true facts you know, the better it can make you feel, but limit the time you spend reading and talking about it. The internet can spread wrong information, and true information that is quite frightening as the virus is potentially dangerous, however, remember that most people won’t have symptoms or be extremely sick.
So, while it is worth thinking about it, as this means you will change the way you do some things and help to slow down the spread of the disease, it is not something to panic about.
This BBC Newsround from the UK aimed at children, may also help to relieve anxiety: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m2rQV34fr-M
Manuela Molina (https://www.mindheart.co/descargables) has created a short book to support and reassure children, under the age of 7, regarding the COVID-19. This book is an invitation for families to discuss the full range of emotions arising from the current situation. This resource does not seek to be a source of scientific information, but rather a tool based on fantasy. Her recommendation is to print this material so children can draw on it.