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A Parents' Guide to COVID-19: Keeping Kids Safe

Published on Jan. 04, 2022

Contrary to myth, COVID-19 impacts children – and not just emotionally. While it’s true that children are at less risk of becoming severely ill from the SARS-CoV2 virus, more than 7.9 million children have contracted COVID-19 to date, accounting for over 17% of COVID cases since the pandemic’s onset.

Among this number, as many as 4.1% of reported COVID-induced hospitalizations have been children, and 0.00-0.02% of pediatric COVID-19 cases have resulted in death. (Source: American Academy of Pediatrics). With highly contagious variants and the current COVID-19 surge in northern Michigan that includes child cases, protecting children with science-backed tools is more important than ever.

Here's what you need to know to maximize your child’s safety:

Know the Risks

Although complications from COVID-19 appear to increase with age, kids are still susceptible to COVID-19 infections. We also know that severe symptoms requiring hospitalization can also occur. Kids with underlying health conditions are especially vulnerable, accounting for 2/3 of hospitalized cases – though no child is fully immune to COVID complications. Risk factors for kids developing COVID-related complications requiring hospitalization include:


Kids with obesity are 30% more likely to be hospitalized due to COVID-19.

Other chronic illnesses

Kids with heart, lung or kidney disease, asthma, type 2 diabetes, and other chronic illnesses are at higher risk of developing severe COVID-19 symptoms.

Compromised Immunity

Kids with a weakened immune system due to cancer, organ transplants, rheumatological and gastrointestinal disease, certain medications like long-term steroids, also have increased susceptibility to severe COVID-19 symptoms. 

Even for children without heightened risk, missed school, paused play and social time, and feeling "icky" can prove to be just the beginning of COVID-19 complications. Some kids are now experiencing what’s called long COVID, where symptoms like headache, fatigue, and loss of taste or smell continue long past initial infection. Approximately 8% of children with COVID-19 reported continued symptoms more than 12 weeks after diagnosis, according to a recent study.

Some kids are also at risk of developing Multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C) following a COVID-19 infection. MIS-C is a rare but serious condition where several organs like the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes, or gastrointestinal organs develop inflammation. 

Nearly 6,000 cases of MIS-C have been reported in the United States, and over 50 deaths (Source: CDC). RSV occurring alongside or succeeding COVID-19 is also a growing concern. Learn more about MIS-C and RSV in depth by clicking on the blog links below.

What Parents Should Know About Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C)

Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV): The Newest Threat to Children?

Child COVID-19 Vaccines are Safe and Effective

The vaccine is now approved for children 5 and up. For children ages 5-11, the Pfizer-BioNTech pediatric COVID-19 Vaccine is similar to Pfizer's vaccine for children and adults ages 12 and up, though with a smaller needle and 1/3 of the regular Pfizer dose.

Kids 12 and older are now eligible for Pfizer’s booster shot five months after their initial vaccine series. Because the vaccine’s effectiveness can wane over time, boosters are an important way to keep your child’s immunity responding to COVID-19 and its variants. Learn more about booster shots and eligibility here

Whatever vaccine your child may be eligible for, COVID-19 vaccines have proven to be safe and highly effective at preventing COVID-19 – and all the complications that can follow. Click below to learn more about the COVID-19 vaccine for kids as five of our expert pediatricians weigh in on safety, effectiveness, addressing needle fear, and more.

Kids and COVID-19: Is the Vaccine Safe?

Find a Vaccine Location Near You

Mask Up & Practice Social Distancing

Our region is experiencing another surge; COVID-19 cases now account for more than 20 percent of our population here in northern Michigan, including a rise in child cases! We strongly recommend masking children 2 and older to prevent further spread of COVID-19 (regardless of vaccination status), along with physical distancing of six feet or more around people outside your immediate household. Learn the facts about kids and masking and hear from Christopher Ledtke, MD, an infectious disease expert with Munson Healthcare, below.

Should Kids Wear Masks?

Munson Minutes | Masking and the COVID-19 Delta Variant

Teach and Practice Good Hygiene

You know the drill by now: wash your hands frequently, for at least 20 seconds with soap. Hint: try singing the chorus of your child’s favorite song as you wash your hands together.

But sometimes, especially with younger children, it takes a little more to drive the message home. Here are a few ideas for teaching your child proper handwashing techniques.

How to Teach Kids to Wash Their Hands

Ready Wrigley Prepares for Flu Season (Coloring Book)

The CDC’s flu preparedness campaign includes a fun coloring book featuring Wrigley the dog. It’s not specifically about COVID-19, but still a great activity for young children. Download a printable copy.

Wash Your Hands Song by the Singing Walrus

The Wash Your Hands Song by the Singing Walrus is fun way to remind younger kids how important hand hygiene is, especially to protect from viruses.

Show Your Kids the “Cough Pocket”

Coughing or sneezing into your elbow can be hard for kids to remember. But calling the elbow a “cough pocket” might help the behavior stick.

ABC Scrub with Me

A game to help children visualize germs while practicing their alphabet skills, created by PBS Kids.

Don’t Forget About the Flu

The recent COVID-19 surge in our region is coinciding with flu season – except unlike last year, the 2021-22 flu season may not be as mild. The good news is, the same tools that protect both you and your family from COVID-19 (including vaccines, masking, social distancing, and frequent handwashing) also protect against the flu – and it’s safe to get a flu and COVID-19 shot at the same time.

Learn More About How to Fight the Flu

COVID-19 vs the Flu

Prepare Routines and Activities

School closures and limiting your child’s social time with others may call for long days at home. It’s important to maintain a structure and keep to routines when you can. Here are a few ideas for keeping kids occupied:

Virtual Museum Tours

Did you know more than 500 museums and art galleries around the world have partnered with Google Arts and Culture to offer virtual tours? Check these out:

  • British Museum, London
  • Guggenheim Museum, New York
  • National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

Find more at-home, interactive, and engaging activities below.

Engaging Activities for Kids at Home

Questions? Ask a Nurse!

Do you still have questions about the COVID-19 vaccine for your child – or anyone in your family? Or maybe you need a pediatrician? A Munson Healthcare nurse is standing by and ready to help. Call Ask-A-Nurse anytime daily between 7 am – 11 pm to speak with a registered nurse. This service is FREE and no insurance is required.

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