How to care for a child with COVID-19 at home: Advice for caregivers
Children who have mild COVID-19 symptoms are able to stay at home with a caregiver throughout their recovery without needing hospitalization.
If you are caring for a child who has or may have COVID-19, it is important to follow the steps below to protect yourself and others in the home, as well as those in your community.
Organization: Public Health Agency of Canada
Date published: 2020-06-25
Monitor your child for symptoms
- Monitor your child's symptoms as directed by your healthcare provider or Public Health Authority.
- If your child develops severe symptoms, call 911 or your local emergency number.
- If calling an ambulance, tell the dispatcher that the child has/may have COVID-19. If going to the hospital in a private vehicle, call ahead to the hospital and let them know that the child has/may have COVID-19.
Keep hands clean
- Wash your hands and those of your child often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after any type of contact with the child (e.g. changing diapers) and after removing gloves.
- If soap and water are not available and if your hands do not look dirty, use an alcohol-based sanitizer (ABHS) that contains at least 60% alcohol. If hands look dirty, remove dirt with a wet wipe first, then use ABHS.
- Dry hands with disposable paper towels.
- If not available, use a reusable towel and replace it when it becomes wet. Do not share.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands and encourage your child not to touch their face, either.
Avoid spreading infection to others
- Your child should remain in your home or in a monitored outdoor space, should not play with friends or go to school or to public areas, and should not be within 2 metres of others if possible.
- Encourage the child to use tissues or cough/sneeze into their elbow to decrease the spread of respiratory droplets.
- Do not share personal items with the child, such as toothbrushes, towels, bed linen, utensils or electronic devices.
- Do not share food and drinks.
- Use a separate bathroom from the child if possible. If not possible, put the toilet lid down before flushing.
- For breastfeeding mothers: given the health benefits to your child from breastfeeding, it is recommended that you continue breastfeeding.
- If you are feeding with formula or expressed milk, sterilize the equipment carefully before each use and do not share bottles or a breast pump.
- Prevent contact with animals, as there have been several reports of people transmitting COVID-19 to their pets.
Keep your environment clean
- Follow instructions for the safe use and disposal or laundering of face masks provided by your Public Health Authority.
- Place used gloves and other contaminated items in a lined container, secure the contents and dispose of them with other household waste.
- Place possibly contaminated laundry into a container with a plastic liner and do not shake. Wash with regular laundry soap and hot water (60-90°C), and dry well. Clothing and linens belonging to the child can be washed with other laundry. Gloves and non-medical mask or face covering , made with at least two layers of tightly woven fabric, constructed to completely cover the nose and mouth without gaping, and secured to the head by ties or ear loops should be worn when in direct contact with contaminated laundry.
- To disinfect, use only approved hard-surface disinfectants that have a Drug Identification Number (DIN). A DIN is an 8-digit number given by Health Canada that confirms the disinfectant product is approved and safe for use in Canada.
- When approved hard surface disinfectants are not available, for household disinfection, a diluted bleach solution can be prepared in accordance with the instructions on the label, or in a ratio of 5 millilitres (mL) of bleach per 250 mL of water OR 20 mL of bleach per litre of water. This ratio is based on bleach containing 5% sodium hypochlorite, to give a 0.1% sodium hypochlorite solution. Follow instructions for proper handling of household (chlorine) bleach.
- If they can withstand the use of liquids for disinfection, high-touch electronic devices (e.g. keyboards, touch screens) may be disinfected with 70% alcohol at least daily.
- Wearing a face mask, including a non-medical mask or facial covering, may trap respiratory droplets and stop them from contaminating surfaces - but wearing a mask does not reduce the need for cleaning.
- Only one healthy person should provide care for the child, but everyone in your home should follow this guidance.
- People who are at higher risk of serious illness from COVID-19 should not care for a child with COVID-19. These include elderly persons, those with chronic medical conditions (e.g. heart disease, diabetes) or compromised immune systems.
- Some people may transmit COVID-19 even though they do not show any symptoms. If you need to be within 2 metres of the child, wear disposable gloves, eye protection and a medical mask, if available. If not available, wear a non-medical mask or face covering, made with at least two layers of tightly woven fabric, constructed to completely cover the nose and mouth without gaping, and secured to the head by ties or ear loops.
Monitor yourself for symptoms
- Monitor yourself for symptoms and follow any advice provided by your local public health authority about quarantine (self-isolating).
- If you develop even mild symptoms, isolate yourself as quickly as possible and contact your local Public Health Authority for further instructions.
Maintain these supplies
- Medical masks, if available and tolerable, for the child and the caregiver. If not available, use a non-medical mask or face covering
- Eye protection (face shield or goggles) for use by caregiver
- Disposable gloves (do not re-use) for use by caregiver
- Disposable paper towels
- Waste container with plastic liner
- Over the counter medication to reduce fever (e.g. ibuprofen or acetaminophen)
- Running water
- Hand soap
- Alcohol-based hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol
- Dish soap
- Regular laundry soap
- Regular household cleaning products
- One-step cleaner/disinfectant
- Hard-surface disinfectant, or if not available, concentrated (5%) liquid bleach and a separate container for dilution
- Alcohol prep wipes or appropriate cleaning products for high-touch electronics
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