Understanding Covid-19 for children, young people and their families

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understanding coronavirus

The coronavirus (Covid-19) has caused major changes in our daily lives. It has stopped us going to school or work, it has stopped us spending time with friends and family, and it has caused pain and grief as loved ones become seriously ill or die from the virus.

Feeling anxious, frustrated or alone are normal reactions to a difficult and stressful time. We see the news or stories on social media which can be desperately sad or scary. But not all we read and see is necessarily true. The coronavirus is attracting myths, hearsay and lies, and that is why it is so important to have information from sources you can trust.

On this page you will find a wealth of information to help you have a better understanding of the coronavirus and what is being done to help people stay save and healthy. Click on the tabs below for a more in depth look into each topic as well as links to more detailed advice for trusted organisations.

Getting NHS help during coronavirus outbreak

Many health services across Essex and nationwide have reported fewer people coming to seek help for their non-Covid health concerns. It's really important to realise that not every illness your child has is due to Covid-19. All the 'normal' infections that can make children and babies really unwell still remain and there is a major risk that parents may delay bringing their child to the attention of a healthcare professionals even if they are unwell.

We know that people are worried at the moment at either being a burden on the NHS or about catching coronavirus, but please do seek help if you and your family need it.

Healthcare services are still being provided virtually either online or by phone, from your GP and Practice Nurse appointments to mental health support, so please do still get in contact. If you and your child are asked to attend an appointment in person, it is because it is necessary for their health.

The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health has also put together a quick guide to help you know what to do in different medical situations. If you are unsure whether your needs are urgent, you can visit NHS 111 online for medical support and advice. If you don’t have internet access, you can call 111 instead.

For any serious conditions like meningitis, sepsis or broken bones, continue to call 999 straight away. Time is of the essence for these conditions and delay could have tragic consequences. Hospitals have taken all measures necessary to ensure people can access emergency care safely.

Advice for parents about Covid-19

Covid-19 is a mild illness for most children. Less than 2 in every 100 cases diagnosed in China have been in children and infection appears to be milder in children than it is in adults, although we do not yet understand exactly why this is the case.

If you or your child have symptoms of Covid-19, it is important to stay at home so you do not risk passing the virus on to somebody else that may have a more severe illness. The symptoms to look out for are a persistent new cough, a high temperature, or a loss of smell or taste. If someone in your family has any of these symptoms, they must self-isolate for at least seven days. Everyone else in your household must also self-isolate for at least 14 days. The whole household should not leave the house for any reason, including going to see your GP or food shopping.

If you or your child's illness worsens, seek medical help by:

  • If it’s not an emergency, contact NHS 111 online. If you have no internet access, you should call NHS 111.

  • If it is an emergency and you need to call an ambulance, dial 999 and inform the call handler or operator that you or your relative have coronavirus (Covid-19) symptoms.

For more information on self-isolating, visit the gov.uk website.

Below are some links that provide more detailed information and advice to help families during the coronavirus outbreak. There's general guidance on what people should and should not be doing at this time as well as more specific advice on taking care of your family's health and wellbeing. Remember that the NHS is still here to help and please do contact your doctor, nurse or any other health professional if you need help and advice.



  • Gov.uk/coronavirus - A general Covid-19 guidance and support page with information on protecting yourself, testing,financial support, education and childcare and many other topics.

  • Gov.uk page on social distancing - a page with guidance on social distancing and staying at home.

  • Staying safe outside your home - a gov.uk page on the current guidance for staying safe outside of your home.

  • Confidential phoneline for family support - Family Lives has a phone-line for parents who are finding it hard. You can call on 0808 800 2222. See the weblink to find out what times the line is open.

  • Child Line Coronavirus Advice - The organisation has advice on things like symptoms of the virus and what you can do to keep occupied while staying at home.

  • Change 4 Life - Includes a selection of indoor activities to help keep active while staying at home.


  • Stay Safe at Home during Covid-19 - an Essex-wide campaign raising awareness of some of the risks at home such as scams and domestic abuse.

  • Essex Coronavirus Action - local Facebook group that can provide support with essentials for people who are self isolating and don't have anyone else who can help them.


Gov.uk website education resources page - a list of online resources to help children of all ages to keep learning while at home.

Gov.uk Department of Education page - contains information on schools and how coronavirus is affecting them.

Domestic Abuse


  • Coronavirus (COVID-19) and domestic abuse - support for victims of domestic abuse from the Gov.uk website.

  • Save Lives - a collection of resources to help support people experiencing domestic abuse; their family, friends or neighbours; and professionals.


  • COMPASS - a support service for people experiencing domestic abuse in Essex.

  • SETDAB - a website providing advice and information on services for those affected by domestic abuse.

Internet safety

Talking to children about Covid-19

General advice

Mental Health

Support for young people's health and wellbeing

General Covid-19 advice and Support


  • riseabove.org.uk - top tips for staying healthy during lockdown.

  • Young Minds - tips, advice and guidance on getting support for young people's mental health during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

  • ukyouth.org - some advice for children and young people on topics such as education, working and wellbeing.

Support with Emotional Wellbeing and Thoughts



  • Emotional Wellbeing and Mental Health Service - provides advice and support to children and young people who need support with their emotions or mental health.

  • Mid and North Essex Mind - a local charity that helps residents with mental health support.

  • Kids Inspire - a local charity helping disadvantaged young people turn their lives around

  • Parents 1st - provides support for parents during pregnancy, birth, and the transition period of becoming a parent
  • Kooth online - a free online community for mental wellbeing and support.

  • Big White Wall - online community support for mental wellbeing that includes self-guided courses and access to health professionals.

For more information about mental health services in mid Essex, please visit our Mental Health Services webpage. You will find further information on services for children as well as services for adults such as our talking therapies service, Health in Mind and online support via Silvercloud, which can support you with your own thoughts, feelings and anxieties.

Family bereavement and coronaviru

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Talking about death can be a very difficult conversation to have wit a child. There are a number of resources and organisations that help you have that conversation as well as provide additional support for children dealing with bereavement. Locally Havens Hospice has launched a phone line to help children and adults talk about their experiences. See more about this service below.


  • National Bereavement Network - family bereavement support, keeping in touch guide.

  • Winston's Wish - advice and guidance for children and young people coping with bereavement during Covid-19.

  • Family bereavement Freephone National Helpline 08088 020 021 offers therapeutic advice following a bereavement for children and young people, their families and carers or professionals.

  • Child Bereavement UK - charity that provides support for children and young people, and their parents and families following a bereavement (free helpline and online chat available).


Special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) and coronavirus

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The changes to everyday life at the moment is very difficult for all parents. In addition to the anxieties around the virus itself, parents are understandably worried about their child's education, their overall health, and the mental and emotional challenges that the virus and the lockdown raise.

Parents of children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) may be facing additional concerns based on your child's needs. Health services across Thurrock and the wider region are committed to supporting your family’s needs. The specialist services important to the care of children with SEND needs remain open and your GP practice is continuing with learning disabilities health checks (contact your practice for more information).

Are health services still available to my child during the Covid-19 Pandemic?

Health services for children are still available and can be contacted through the normal contact numbers. Some staff members may have taken on different roles and responsibilities than they had previously, which may mean you speak to a different member of staff than you are used to.

Many health consultations and appointments have also changed. Video calls and phone calls mean that you can speak with a health professional without needing to attend in person. In some cases, it will be best for the care of your child for them to attend a face-to-face appointment. Rest assured that every action will be taken to ensure your visit is completely safe.

How will the outbreak affect my child’s education, health and care plan?

Due to the extra pressures facing health services at the moment, the care provided may not be the same as that outlined in your child’s plan. You should be contacted by your providers to discuss your child’s care and how their needs can best be met in these challenging times. We know that this may be frustrating and we are all working to ensure that the care your child receives returns to that set out in their plan as soon as possible.

The timescale to complete an education, health and care plan has also been relaxed. This is due to the ability of health services to respond to requests may be affected as resources and staff are focused on Covid-19. These changes to timescales and care provided under the plan will be reviewed regularly to see if they can return to the situation before the coronavirus lockdown.

My child is not in school at the moment, can I still contact my child’s health professional if I have any questions or I am worried?

Yes, your child’s health services and teams are still available for advice, support and consultations. Please use your normal contact numbers. The school nursing team and specialist school nursing team are also still available for advice and support. You can contact your school who can give you details of the school nursing team.

Below we have links to some useful websites that provide additional information on topics such as education, wellbeing and explaining coronavirus to someone with special educational needs and disabilities. You can also find some further links to SEND support in mid Essex on our dedicated Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) webpage.

Keeping up to date with the situation

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The situation continues to change day by day. For the most up to date information on the situation, including advice about school attendance, need for testing or attendance to hospital for assessment, visit the gov.uk/coronavirus webpage.

For more local updates, the Essex County Council website has information on the latest advice around coronavirus.

For the latest information on your school and how it is responding to coronavirus, please visit the website of the school that your child attends.

Protecting against infection and shielding the most vulnerable

Covid-19 is caused by an infectious virus called coronavirus. Most children are not seriously affected by Covid-19 but that does not mean they are not carrying the virus. It’s important that children of all ages follow the same guidance that adults are following to ensure that they do not get the virus and also do not pass it on. The latest guidance from the Government can be found on their staying safe outside your home webpage.

Coronavirus spreads in small droplets of water. This means that you would need to be in close contact with someone with the virus to become infected. That’s why the advice is to keep 2 metres away from other people who don’t live in your home.

If it is not possible to stay 2 metres or more away from other people, it is advised to wear a face covering. Children under age of 2 should not wear a covering nor those who may find it difficult to manage them correctly (for example, primary age children unassisted, or those with respiratory conditions). The healthy children website has more information on wearing face coverings.

However, droplets containing coronavirus can survive for hours on hard surfaces like door handles and handrails. This means that children are much more likely to get the virus on their hands first. Children and people in general often touch their face where it is much easier for the virus to enter the body through the mouth, nose or eyes.

Washing our hands regularly and thoroughly is the best way to remove the virus from our hands. Aim to scrub them for at least 20 seconds. If you are unable to wash them, use a hand sanitiser. In addition, trying to stop your child touching their face will also reduce the risk of them getting a virus.

Children at greater risk

Some children are at greater risk of a severe infection. These children need to be shielded from others while the virus is spreading in communities and neighbourhoods. The shielding group includes children that:

  • Have received an organ transplant

  • Are being treated for specific cancers (leukaemia and lymphoma) or have had a bone marrow transplant in the last 6 months or those on specific forms of immunotherapy;

  • Have cystic fibrosis or severe asthma

  • Have a rare genetic condition that significantly increases their risk of infection or those on immunosuppressive therapy;

If you are not sure whether your child falls into this category, contact their GP, consultant or specialist nurse who should be able to offer advice.

Making the process of testing less scary for children

Testing for coronavirus is taking place across the UK. Children may find testing strange, confusing or even scary. Below is some text that you might find useful when explaining why your child needs to be tested.

  1. Coronavirus is a tiny germ, or “virus” that is so small that you can’t see it. The virus makes some people feel unwell. We don’t think it will make you feel very unwell but we need to know if you have it so we can stop other people from getting ill.

  2. The people doing the test will look very strange in their funny mask and clothes, but they are really very nice and are just trying to stop people from feeling unwell.

  3. They will place a small tube or cotton bud into your nose or throat. It might feel strange, but it will only take a few seconds. And that is it!

Mencap has also provided an easy read guide on personal protective equipment (PPE) which has images which can help with understanding. The guide explains what PPE is and why some people are wearing it: Why we wear PPE.

Images on this page originate from freepik.com.