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HealthInfo Canterbury

Caring for your child at home with COVID-19

Most tamariki (children) with COVID-19 only get mild symptoms or none at all. A small number become more unwell and need extra care from their doctor or need to go to hospital.

If you're worried about your tamaiti (child), you can still get help for them even though you're isolating at home.

Use these three steps:


Call 111 and ask for urgent medical help if your tamaiti:

Tell the operator that your tamaiti has COVID-19. This will help them take the right precautions when they get help for your tamaiti.

Call your healthcare team urgently if your tamaiti:

Your healthcare team will discuss with you when and how to check your tamaiti. This may involve seeing them by video or in person.

Monitoring your child's symptoms

Keeping track of your child's symptoms and how they're feeling helps you and the healthcare team looking after them know if your tamaiti becomes more unwell. Record the following things three times a day in your child's COVID-19 health and symptom diary:

If you've been given a pulse oximeter for your tamaiti, also record the following things:

It's important you get an accurate measurement so check how to use a pulse oximeter.

Symptoms of COVID-19

Most tamariki children will have mild COVID-19 symptoms for up to two weeks. Symptoms tend to appear around two to five days after they're infected but can take up to 14 days to show.

Days one to three

Early symptoms of COVID-19 vary widely.

It can start with a tickle in your child's throat, a cough, a fever or a headache. Your tamaiti may also have difficulty breathing. Sometimes it begins with a bout of diarrhoea (runny poo).

Some tamariki may feel tired and may lose their sense of taste and smell.

Your tamaiti may have some or none of these symptoms.

Days four to six

These are important days to be more aware of your child's symptoms. This is when their breathing may start to get worse.

Your tamaiti may generally start to feel worse and may have aches, chills and cough and may be unsettled or irritable.

Some tamariki may develop rashes, including itchy red patches, swelling or blistering on their toes or fingers.

Days seven to eight

For tamariki with mild symptoms, the worst is usually over after a week.

Some tamariki may get worse at this point or start to feel better briefly then take a turn for the worse.

For how to tell if your tamaiti needs help, and how to get it, see Getting help for your child with COVID-19 if they become unwell below.

Days eight to 12 (week two)

Keep monitoring your child's symptoms and record them in your child's COVID-19 health and symptom diary.

Days 13 to 14

Most tamariki will feel better by now. Some tamariki feel more tired than usual. It's best for your tamaiti to return to activity slowly.

If your tamaiti has ongoing symptoms, your healthcare team will advise you what to do.

From two to six weeks

A very small number of tamariki develop a serious condition after having COVID-19 called PIMS-TS (Paediatric Inflammatory Multisystem Syndrome Temporally associated with SARS-CoV-2). tamariki with this condition can have the following problems:

For how to tell if your tamaiti needs help, and how to get it, see Getting help for your child with COVID-19 if they become unwell below.

Helping my child with COVID-19 at home

You can look after your tamaiti with a fever at home if they:

See Helping your child with COVID-19 symptoms for details of how to help your tamaiti with COVID-19 symptoms.

Helping my young baby with COVID-19 at home

Young pēpi babies (less than 3 months old) need a more cautious approach. If your tamaiti is under 3 months old and you're worried about them, call your healthcare team. Trust your instinct.

Getting help for your child with COVID-19 if they become unwell

If you're worried about your tamaiti child , ask for help. You could:

Stay calm, explain why you're worried about your tamaiti, and tell them that your tamaiti is being looked after at home with COVID-19.

If you're waiting to hear back from your doctor and think your tamaiti is getting sicker, call back and calmly explain why you're worried.

If you've already seen or talked to a doctor but your tamaiti is getting worse, call your doctor back and tell them what's happening.

Call your healthcare team if your tamaiti has any of the following (you could choose to wait until your next health check phone call if it's due in the next 12 hours):

  HealthInfo recommends the following pages

On the next page: Helping your child with COVID-19 symptoms

Content shared between HealthInfo Canterbury, KidsHealth and Health Navigator NZ as part of a National Health Content Hub collaborative. Last reviewed February 2022.

COVID-19 symptoms image adapted from COVID-19 Coronavirus Symptoms infographic: World Health Organization; 2020. Licence: CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 IGO.

See also:


Page reference: 937749

Review key: HICOV-710714