After spending months at home, kids may be exposed to new people and germs whenever they head back to school. It’s important for parents to remember that kids can catch COVID-19, get sick from it, and spread it to family members.

Gregory Germain, MD, Associate Chief of Pediatrics at Yale New Haven Children’s Hospital, said COVID-19 symptoms in kids may look like a bad case of the flu. Symptoms include fever, fatigue, body aches, cough, shortness of breath and difficulty breathing. Kids may also experience congestion, runny nose, a loss of taste or smell, vomiting and diarrhea. If a parent suspects their child has any symptoms related to COVID-19, they should contact their pediatrician right away.

Some of the children most vulnerable to COVID-19 have underlying health conditions. Children with developmental disabilities and children under 2 who cannot wear a mask, are at risk. But so are older kids.

“Who seems to be most vulnerable is the population that can’t do the basics of COVID protection. Hand washing, mask wearing, social distancing, and who is that? Well, we’ve seen on the news, it’s our teenagers,” Dr. Germain said.

kids wearing masks at school

He recommends parents talk with their child every day about COVID-19 prevention. If a child goes back to school in September, mom and dad should be talking about the importance of social distancing, mask wearing and hand washing now.

“Teachers are going to be running the role of reminding kids,” Dr. Germain said. “The more parents can do in advance to discuss those topics, make it easier for the teachers so it’s more second nature when they head back to the classroom, the safer we’re all going to be.”

That includes talking to kids about behaviors families may have forgotten, like hugging teachers or sharing toys and snacks with friends. Dr. Germain notes that Connecticut has done a good job of adhering to public health guidelines over the past few months. But even if the rate of infection appears to be low, families should continue to practice COVID-19 safety.

If schools re-open, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends parents screen their children daily for COVID-19 symptoms, including a fever of 100.4 degrees or higher, sore throat and a new, uncontrolled cough. For more recommendations, head to CDC.gov.