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A Blog from Your Kaiser Permanente Pediatricians in Northern California

Girl washing hands

Protecting Your Family from COVID-19 (Coronavirus)

As cases of COVID-19 (the illness caused by the 2019 novel coronavirus) spread in the world and appear in the U.S., parents have many questions. While the risk to the American public in general is low at this time, concerns and questions are understandable – let’s try to answer some questions here.

How do I protect my family?

Research is underway to create a vaccine against this coronavirus. Until we have one, these are the best ways to protect your family and control the spread of viruses:

  • Wash your hands often, especially after using the bathroom, before eating, and after caring for someone who’s ill in any way.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces at least daily with a household cleaner or wipe. Be sure to clean counters, tabletops, doorknobs, rails, light switches, bathroom fixtures, toilets, phones, keyboards, tablets, and remote controls.
  • Stay home if you’re sick, except to get medical care.

Teach your children to:

  • Wash their hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Have kids sing 2 rounds of the ABC song to measure how long the soap should be on their hands! If soap and water aren’t available, use alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching their eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home when they’re sick. This can be tough for some young children who want to please teachers and parents. Let them know taking care of their body and not getting other kids sick is more important than school attendance!
  • Cover coughs or sneezes with a tissue. Then throw the tissue in the trash and wash their hands again. If they don’t have a tissue, they should cough and sneeze into their elbows like Dracula!

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

Some people become infected but don’t develop any symptoms. Most people who are infected have symptoms similar to the common cold, such as fever, tiredness, cough, and shortness of breath.

If you or a family member have traveled recently to an area of risk and have these symptoms, you should call your doctor for advice. Kaiser Permanente members should call our 24/7 Appointment and Advice Call Center at 866-454-8855 immediately. It’s important to call before you come in! Calling ahead helps us direct you to the most appropriate care, and take precautions to protect you, other patients, and employees.

Are children more at risk than grown-ups?

No. In fact, at this time most confirmed cases are in adults. And in past coronavirus outbreaks, infection of children was less common than in adults.

Is there treatment for coronavirus?

Most people don’t need medical support or treatment. Their symptoms resolve on their own. Some people can develop more severe respiratory symptoms or pneumonia, and they may need to be hospitalized. There is no specific medication that can cure a person with COVID-19, but research is underway to develop one.

Do antibiotics help?

No. COVID-19 is caused by a virus (like the common cold, Norovirus, or influenza) and antibiotics only work on bacterial infections.

What is the incubation period of COVID-19?

Much information about COVID-19, including how long it takes a person to become ill after being exposed, is still being determined. Our current understanding is that the incubation period is 2 to 14 days.

How is COVID-19 spread?

Like many other viruses, the coronavirus is spread through air droplets. If you’re within about 6 feet of a person who’s infected and who coughs or sneezes, you can inhale the droplets. That puts you at risk of infection. Droplets can also land on nearby surfaces. If a person touches an infected object, then touches their own eyes, nose, or mouth, they’re also at risk of infection. At this time, it’s unclear how long the virus can live on surfaces, so we recommend regularly disinfecting frequently touched objects and surfaces.

Can COVID-19 be caught from a person who has no symptoms?

The risk of catching it from a person without any symptoms is very low. The illness is mainly shared by droplets exhaled by an ill person. However, many infected people have very mild symptoms but can still share the virus. That’s why kids should be taught to wash their hands often and take the other precautions listed above.

Our understanding of this new virus and the COVID-19 illness is evolving and, as it does, Kaiser Permanente will continue to share details with you.

To learn more and see recommendations for you and your family, visit these trusted sites:

World Health Organization
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Kaiser Permanente

Disclaimer: If you have an emergency medical condition, call 911 or go to the nearest hospital. An emergency medical condition is any of the following: (1) a medical condition that manifests itself by acute symptoms of sufficient severity (including severe pain) such that you could reasonably expect the absence of immediate medical attention to result in serious jeopardy to your health or body functions or organs; (2) active labor when there isn't enough time for safe transfer to a Plan hospital (or designated hospital) before delivery, or if transfer poses a threat to your (or your unborn child's) health and safety, or (3) a mental disorder that manifests itself by acute symptoms of sufficient severity such that either you are an immediate danger to yourself or others, or you are not immediately able to provide for, or use, food, shelter, or clothing, due to the mental disorder. This information is not intended to diagnose health problems or to take the place of specific medical advice or care you receive from your physician or other health care professional. If you have persistent health problems, or if you have additional questions, please consult with your doctor. If you have questions or need more information about your medication, please speak to your pharmacist. Kaiser Permanente does not endorse the medications or products mentioned. Any trade names listed are for easy identification only.