5 Things Kids Need to Know About Coronavirus

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From the TV to the dinner table, you’re probably hearing a lot of conversation about something called coronavirus, or COVID-19. Like most kids, you’re probably home from school right now because of it. But what do these strange-sounding words mean?

Coronavirus is a new germ around us that is making some people sick with an illness called COVID-19. People who get sick may have a cough, a fever, a sore throat or feel like they are having a hard time breathing.

Doctors and scientists are still learning about coronavirus and COVID-19. “Even though lots of things are changing every day, we can each do our part to help keep everyone healthy,” says Paige Seegan, Ph.D., and Rachel Thornton, M.D., Ph.D., who are experts in working with children and how they feel.

Here are five big things you should know:

1. Wash your hands.

Keeping your hands clean helps you and your family avoid getting sick and spreading germs to other people. Scrub with soapy water really well for twenty seconds — that’s one verse of “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” or a whole run-through of the Alphabet song.

Dr. Thornton suggests singing the “Wash Your Hands” song, to the tune of “Row, Row, Row Your Boat”:

Wash, wash, wash your hands,
Wash them nice and clean.
Scrub them here,
Scrub them there,
And scrub them in between!
Wash, wash, wash, your hands,
Play our handy game.
Rub and scrub, scrub and rub,
Germs go down the drain. HEY!

Superhero fighting germ graphic

Hand-washing Guide for Kids

Hand-washing — along with limiting exposure to people who are (or might be) sick with COVID-19 — is key to keeping your children healthy. Our expert shares how to properly wash hands and make it fun for the whole family.

2. No in-person playdates — for now.

The coronavirus can spread from one person to another, like when we share toys or hold a friend’s hand. Right now, it’s safer not to have play dates with friends. You may be home from school for a while, too.

Although you can’t visit your friends, you can still see each other in other ways: with your parents’ permission, you can talk on the phone or over video chat. You can also stay in touch as pen pals by writing letters or postcards.

3. Masks are safe, not scary.

If you’re going out in public, like to the grocery store, you may see lots of people wearing masks over their faces. Don’t be scared: People are doing this as another way to help keep each other safe. The masks help protect the person wearing them from breathing in germs or, if they are sick, from spreading the germs to others.

“Ask a parent or older sibling about making a cloth mask you can wear for added protection,” suggests Dr. Thornton. “Making a few to donate to others can also be a fun activity to do at home, too.”

5 Tips Kids Need to Know about Covid-19

4. Cover your cough or sneeze.

Coronavirus germs can travel through coughs and sneezes. That’s why it’s important to cover your nose and mouth with your elbow or a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Wash your hands afterwards, and, if you use a tissue, make sure to throw it away.

5. Be a good helper.

Because your parents may be working from home now, they may be busy, tired or stressed-out. Give them a hand by helping with chores, like setting the table or cleaning up your toys when you are done playing with them.

Remember, it’s OK to ask questions.

Things may seem confusing or different for a while, so don’t be afraid to ask questions or share your feelings. “In fact, talking about your feelings with your family can actually help you feel better and less stressed,” says Dr. Seegan.

“You cannot control everything, but you can control what you do,” reassures Dr. Seegan. “If we all work together as a team, we can help keep ourselves, friends and family healthy.”

Scientist carefully insets a pipette into a test tube.

Coronavirus (COVID-19)

What you need to know from Johns Hopkins Medicine.