We answered parents’ most important questions about COVID-19
As the impact of the coronavirus pandemic continues to be felt around the world—and as cases resurge in the U.S.—parents have particular questions about how to keep their families safe and healthy. We've collected answers to some of the most common questions parents have asked about coronavirus. Because the situation is evolving so rapidly, advice may change as new information comes to light.
Knowledge is power—and we want you to feel empowered, not panicked. Here are answers to some of the most commonly-asked questions from parents about coronavirus.
What should we do if there are coronavirus cases nearby?
Experts advise that the best course of action to avoid transmitting or spreading the virus is to practice social distancing: Basically, avoid unnecessary travel, stick close to home and do not gather in large groups.
Health regulations vary widely from state to state (and even from town to town) depending on whether cases are rising or falling locally. The most important thing you can do is to stay informed about local virus transmission rates and public health directives in your area.
In addition to social distancing, experts agree that wearing a mask in public places, particularly while indoors, helps prevent asymptomatic transmission of the virus while also helping protect at-risk people such as pregnant women, the elderly and frontline and emergency workers. The CDC recommends wearing a mask wherever it is difficult to maintain social distance, especially if the virus is active in your area.
While dealing with closures and lifestyle changes due to social distancing may be stressful, social distancing and masks are both important weapons in "flattening the curve" of the infection's spread.
For more resources:
- Why social distancing is so important
- Phrases to use to help explain social distancing to kids
- How face masks can reduce virus transmission
- 6 steps the CDC recommends to prevent the spread of coronavirus
What are the symptoms of coronavirus? The CDC has updated its list
Symptoms of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, may include fever, coughing and difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC recently updated its list of symptoms to include congestion or runny nose, nausea and diarrhea as coronavirus symptoms.
Unfortunately for parents everywhere, all of these are also common symptoms of colds and flu. The chart above breaks down how the symptoms of coronavirus differ from the symptoms of cold, flu, RSV and seasonal allergies.
Symptoms that are more unique to COVID-19 include a loss of taste or smell, in addition to chills, muscle pain and shaking due to chills. Some studies have also noted that skin lesions on the toes or hands, sometimes referred to as COVID toes, can occur in children and adults with the virus.
If anyone in my family has symptoms, what should we do?
The CDC advises that you call your doctor or health care provider if you are showing symptoms of coronavirus that include high fever, cough or shortness of breath. Your doctor will be able to provide next steps for your care as well as help you get tested.
Emergency warning signs for COVID-19 include trouble breathing, persistent chest pain or pressure, confusion or inability to arouse and blueness in the lips or face. These symptoms are signs that you should call 911 immediately. The operator should be told that you that you have, or think you might have, COVID-19. If possible, put on a cloth face covering before medical help arrives.
Other steps to take if you experience symptoms, as recommended by the CDC:
- Stay home except to get medical care.
- Separate yourself from other people and animals in your home as much as possible.
- Call ahead before visiting your doctor.
- Wear a face mask if you are sick.
- Cover your coughs and sneezes.
- Wash your hands often.
- Avoid sharing personal household items.
- Clean all "high-touch" surfaces every day.
- Monitor your symptoms and call your doctor immediately if your symptoms worsen.
What can I do to keep my family from getting sick?
While there's no silver bullet that will prevent coronavirus, experts recommend frequent hand-washing, cleaning high-touch surfaces in the house regularly (here's how to clean your house to prevent coronavirus) and paying close attention to hygiene.
There are also some simple actions you can take to help boost your family's immune systems overall, such as getting enough sleep and eating healthful foods. And of course, social distancing is the top method health professionals recommend to prevent yourself—and others—from transmitting the virus.
More resources about how coronavirus impacts children, babies, and moms-to-be:
- Coronavirus in babies and preschoolers
- How the coronavirus pandemic affects fertility treatments
- Everything we know (so far) about giving birth during the COVID-19 pandemic
Is it okay to take kids out to public places? Can we go to the playground?
Especially if you live in an area where the number of cases is rapidly rising, experts recommend using an abundance of caution and staying home as much as possible. That means not scheduling any unnecessary social gatherings like birthday parties, sleepovers and play dates. Playgrounds are also not advised right now, although if you are lucky enough to live in an area where cases and hospitalizations are low and declining, some summer activities (like going to the beach) are considered lower risk.
Social distancing for families is hard, but it's so important to take it seriously. Taking kids to ride bikes or for a walk—where it's easy to maintain space between people—is okay, but taking kids to shopping centers, playgrounds and other public places where large numbers of people gather in close contact is discouraged.Right now, the best place for kids to play is at home.
More ideas for keeping kids busy during the coronavirus pandemic:
- PE at home: 10 fun activities to get the whole family moving
- 25 board games parents + kids will love playing together
- 25+ outdoor games that will keep kids busy for hours
- 20 indoor boredom busters that don't involve screen time
Is it safe to travel with kids?
The answer is changing every day, but experts say that local travel by car is perfectly safe. It may be wisest to postpone family vacations through the summer, though.
The CDC's guidelines for nonessential travel are basically a decision tree, encouraging individuals to consider the following questions:
- Is COVID-19 spreading where you're going? You can get infected while traveling.
- Is COVID-19 spreading in your community? Even if you don't have symptoms, you can spread COVID-19 to others while traveling.
- Will you or those you are traveling with be within 6 feet of others during or after your trip? Being within 6 feet of others increases your chances of getting infected and infecting others.
- Are you or those you are traveling with more likely to get very ill from COVID-19? Older adults and people of any age who have a serious underlying medical condition are at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19.
- Do you live with someone who is more likely to get very ill from COVID-19? If you get infected while traveling you can spread COVID-19 to loved ones when you return, even if you don't have symptoms.
More resources for family travel during the pandemic:
- Experts weigh in on whether it's safe to fly with kids right now
- Is it safe to stay at a hotel?
- How to vacation safely with family members this summer
How do I tell my kids about coronavirus?
Talking to your kids about coronavirus is important, whether you're soothing their worries or simply reminding them about the importance of good hand washing. The potential for disruption to daily life is high, but the CDC still says the risk to children is low.
Be calm, meet your child where they are in terms of their interest level in the news and remember that it's okay not to have all the answers.
More resources for talking with kids about coronavirus + social distancing and managing their fears:
- Talking points for answering kids' questions about coronavirus
- 10 phrases to use to help children understand social distancing
- 8 positive ways to give kids the connection and reassurance they need now
- Tactics for reducing anxiety that parents and kids can use together
What do pregnant women need to know about coronavirus?
Preventing exposure to coronavirus if you are pregnant
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) has noted precautions that pregnant women and nursing women should take to help limit their exposure to coronavirus and stresses that pregnant women should stay in touch with their care providers to be advised of the most recent protocols.
Here are the current guidelines for pregnant women from ACOG:
- Pregnant people should report concerning symptoms immediately: these include fever, cough, and chest tightness or difficulty breathing.
- Providers will be following a detailed algorithm when deciding when to test pregnant people for COVID-19. The primary criteria involve assessing the presence of coronavirus symptoms.
- Regarding travel, pregnant women (like all people) should adhere to the Centers for Disease Control recommendations for specific areas, in addition to consulting with their providers.
- ACOG does not currently recommend that women change their labor + delivery plans in response to the pandemic.
- ACOG also does not endorse that women plan to give birth at home rather than at their hospital, noting that "ACOG believes that the safest place for you to give birth is still a hospital, hospital-based birth center, or accredited freestanding birth center" as opposed to giving birth at home.
If you are diagnosed with COVID-19 while pregnant
It does not appear that COVID-19 can be transmitted from a pregnant woman to her fetus, according to studies. That said, pregnant women who are diagnosed with COVID-19 will need to take special precautions during pregnancy, labor and delivery. A recent CDC study has suggested that pregnant women with coronavirus are more likely to be hospitalized and to require ventilation.
Here are the current guidelines from ACOG for pregnant women who have tested positive:
- Follow advice from the CDC, your OB-GYN and your primary health care provider.
- Stay home except to get medical care. Avoid public transportation.
- Speak with your health care team over the phone before going to their office. Get medical care right away if you feel worse or think it's an emergency.
- Separate yourself from other people in your home.
- Wear a face mask when you are around other people and when you go to get medical care.
- Preparing for postpartum during a pandemic
- How to handle postpartum visits and social distancing with a newborn
- What giving birth during a pandemic taught one mom
- Caring for yourself is caring for your baby—now more than ever
Can I start IVF during the COVID-19 pandemic?
If you are about to start IVF, you should speak with your reproductive endocrinologist about whether they are starting any IVF cycles at this time, and about the risks of going forward with your cycle. Motherly's education editor and certified nurse midwife Diana Spalding recommends that people consider freezing their embryos and not do a fresh transfer right now—we are still learning a lot about the impacts of coronavirus on pregnancy so delaying conception a bit may decrease the chance of potential risks associated with the infection.
According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), little is known about the impact of COVID-19 on pregnant women and infants, and it is unclear if COVID-19 can cross the placenta. Since pregnant women are at higher risk of complications from similar respiratory infections, pregnant women are considered an "at-risk population" for COVID-19.
The data on coronavirus infections in pregnancy is minimal. Providing care for pregnant women with severe infections will possibly be more difficult and resource-intensive. Some of the drugs that are being considered for treatment may not be usable in pregnant women, for instance.
It may be best to postpone your cycle for multiple reasons, including unknown risks of infection during pregnancy, desire to minimize in-person interactions, and preserving medical resources for urgent COVID-19 patients.
When will kids go back to school?
As of this update, school closures have impacted public and private schools and preschools in all 50 states. The timeline for going back to school depends on where you live.
When school does reopen in the fall, it is likely that additional cleaning and social distancing measures will be in place, regardless of where you live. The CDC has published detailed recommendations for schools for local districts to implement as best they can. These recommendations for safely reopening schools include:
- Training staff and teachers to prevent transmission of the virus and to recognize signs of illness
- Promoting hand washing and healthy hygiene practices
- "Intensifying" cleaning, disinfection and ventilation
- Employees wearing cloth masks, "as feasible"
- Maintaining social distancing by increasing spacing and creating small groups that don't intermix
More information about when and how schools are reopening:
- Here's what schools could look like when they reopen
- What school reopening looks like in other countries
- When will kids go back to school? That depends on where you live
- Teachers are concerned about safety risks as schools reopen
What should I do if I can't pay my bills because I'm out of work?
We understand this is a tough time right now, mama, and not everyone is getting paid while they're out of work. The federal government has announced relief payments for people affected by the pandemic and pushed back the tax deadline to July 15, although if you qualify for a refund, you should file earlier. There are a few additional things you can do if you're facing hardship:
- Call your landlord or the bank that holds your mortgage and discuss your options during a pandemic. Some states are seeking to ban evictions during the pandemic.
- Contact your credit card company and ask about payment plan options, or if there are any interest deferrals during a time of crisis.
- If you have student loan payments, interest payments on federal loans have been paused during the pandemic. Speak to your loan provider to see if there are any other resources available.
- Contact your local diaper bank if you cannot afford more diapers. You can find one close to you here.
- Here's what to do if you cannot afford baby formula, or if you cannot find baby formula in your area. We're also tracking places where parents can find formula, diapers and wipes.
- Here's where to find free and low-cost food during the pandemic.
- Call your representatives in state and municipal government. Some areas are making plans to help those hit by financial hardship during this time.
How do I work from home with kids around?
With offices across the country encouraging workers to clock in remotely, and schools closing in district after district, finding a way to work from home with kids is a high priority for a growing number of parents. It's definitely possible—and we've got lots of work from home strategies to help (the entire staff at Motherly works from home—almost all of us with kids—so we're all right there with you, mama).
- I've worked from home for years—here's what keeps me productive
- How to work from home with kids: Experienced parents share tips for all ages from baby to teen
- Okay, but seriously: How do you schedule a day with the kids home from school?
[This post was originally published April 3, 2020. It has been updated.]