What to do if your child is unwell during the COVID-19 lockdown

In our recent survey of UK paediatricians, we heard reports that parents and carers are seeking help for their child much later than they usually would. This has led to some conditions getting more serious—and in a small number of cases, children dying.

Back in March, it came to our attention that some parents and carers are not seeking medical help when their child is unwell during the coronavirus pandemic. There are many understandable reasons why this could be happening. Parents and carers may be:

  • Not wishing to ‘bother’ NHS staff
  • Following advice to stay at home
  • Worried about getting infected
  • Worried by misinformation, e.g. fearing that a child will be taken away. 

What to do

Throughout the pandemic, our message to parents and carers hasn’t changed: please seek medical help if your child is unwell, exactly as you did before the outbreak. While some services are unable to offer face-to-face support, they are still running. You can seek medical help right now by:

  • Visiting 111.nhs.uk, or calling 111 if you are unable to access the website
  • Contacting your GP, who will still be able to provide a remote consultation
  • In urgent cases, visiting your nearest A&E department or calling 999.

To help parents and carers understand what to do, we have created a guide listing symptoms that children experience. Using a simple traffic light system, the guide explains when parents and carers should treat their child at home, contact a GP, or visit a hospital:


Rare inflammatory condition

Most children have no symptoms or mild symptoms when infected with COVID-19. However, a small number have been identified who develop a rare condition known as Paediatric Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome (PIMS).

Things to remember

Coronavirus is infectious to children but it is very rarely serious. If your child is unwell during this time, it is more likely to be an illness related to something other than coronavirus. If you do need to visit A&E, you can be sure that:

  • Staff will make efforts to ensure you and your child are not infected
  • The risk of infection is smaller than the risk of not seeking help
  • You will not be separated from your child unless it is absolutely necessary.

Please seek medical help if your child is unwell, exactly as you did before the outbreak.