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What are the symptoms of COVID-19 in children?

Text updated on 2020-05-31

Children usually have no symptoms, or develop milder forms of the disease than adults. However, there are also rare severe cases. Children can be carriers of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, so they should also use barrier procedures and be tested.

The time between contact with a person with the COVID-19 disease and the onset of the first symptoms can range from 2 to 10 days in children. The predominant symptoms seen in children are mild fever, respiratory symptoms, and diarrhea. Most infected children have no symptoms. Children develop fewer cases of severe pneumonia than adults. About 5% of children develop severe forms, and in very rare cases, a multisystemic childhood inflammatory syndrome, which requires immediate hospitalization for effective treatment. Frostbite on the toes has also been observed in children and young adults.

As of May 1, 2020, according to global statistics, the probability of dying from an SARS-CoV-2 infection is around zero for a child aged 0-9, 0.2% for a person aged 10-19, while it is 0.4% for those aged 40-49 and 14.8% for those aged 80 and over.

Because children can get COVID-19, they should follow the same rules of hygiene and social distancing as adults, including limiting close contact with vulnerable people such as grandparents.

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Cohort of 731 children with COVID-19 and 1,412 suspected children with COVID-19 in China.

Dong, Y., Mo, X., Hu, Y., Qi, X., Jiang, F., Jiang, Z., & Tong, S. (2020). Epidemiological characteristics of 2143 pediatric patients with 2019 coronavirus disease in China. Pediatrics.

Retrospective study of >40,000 COVID cases in China, including 549 cases in the 10-19 age group (1%) and 416 cases among children less than 10 years old (1%)

Vital Surveys (2020). The epidemiological characteristics of an outbreak of 2019 novel coronavirus diseases (COVID-19)-China, 2020. China CDC Weekly, 2(8), 113-122.

Systematic synthesis of March 23rd of COVID-19 in children. Incubation time can range from 2 to 10 days.

Ludvigsson JF. Systematic review of COVID-19 in children show milder cases and a better prognosis than adults. Acta Paediatr. 2020 Mar 23.

Worldometers, an international team of developers, researchers, and volunteers, presents available global statistics on current SARS-Cov-2 related deaths in an easy-to-understand format.


The site of the Institut national d'études démographiques, France, compiles death data by sex and age for at least 9 countries (Germany, Spain, France, Italy, South Korea, etc.) from official statistics issued daily by the countries.

French page

Study of 10 children who caught COVID-19 in January-February 2020: the first symptoms appeared on average 6.5 days after contact with a person with COVID-19.

Cai, J., Xu, J., Lin, D., Xu, L., Qu, Z., Zhang, Y., ... & Xia, A. (2020). A Case Series of children with 2019 novel coronavirus infection: clinical and epidemiological features. Clinical Infectious Diseases.

Analysis of 171 children with COVID-19.

Lu, X., Zhang, L., Du, H., Zhang, J., Li, Y. Y., Qu, J., ... & Wu, C. (2020). SARS-CoV-2 infection in children. New England Journal of Medicine.

Unusual spring frostbite has been observed in children and young adults in the United States and Europe: these symptoms have been identified in a few people with COVID-19.

Landa, N., Mendieta-Eckert, M., Fonda-Pascual, P., Aguirre, T. (2020) Chilblain-like lesions on feet and hands during the COVID-19 Pandemic. International J. of Dermatology. April 24.

Multisystemic Inflammatory Syndrome of Children and Adolescents observed in Italy.

Verdoni, L., Mazza, A., Gervasoni, A., Martelli, L., Ruggeri, M., Ciuffreda, M., ... & D'Antiga, L. (2020). An outbreak of severe Kawasaki-like disease at the Italian epicentre of the SARS-CoV-2 epidemic: an observational cohort study. The Lancet.

Multisystemic Inflammatory Syndrome in Children and Adolescents observed in a cohort in the United Kingdom.

Riphagen, S., Gomez, X., Gonzalez-Martinez, C., Wilkinson, N., & Theocharis, P. (2020). Hyperinflammatory shock in children during COVID-19 pandemic. The Lancet.

Multisystemic Inflammatory Syndrome in Children and Adolescents observed in a cohort in France.

Belhadjer, Z., Méot, M., Bajolle, F., Khraiche, D., Legendre, A., Abakka, S., ... & Wacker, J. (2020). Acute heart failure in multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C) in the context of global SARS-CoV-2 pandemic. Circulation.

Further reading

Can my child transmit COVID-19 ?

How long is the coronavirus infectious?

At what age should children wear a mask at school, depending on the country?

How do I explain COVID-19 to children?

What should I do when I need to visit a vulnerable person?