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Can children spread COVID-19?

Dr. Jacqueline Wong, pediatric infectious diseases specialist, McMaster Children’s Hospital

Hi, my name is Jacqueline Wong and I’m a pediatric infectious diseases specialist at Mcmaster Children’s Hospital.

If a child contracts COVID while at school, what are the chances that the child can spread it to someone else at home?

Reassuring studies

There have been a number of studies that looked at this question. Overall, the chances of transmitting the infection to another household member is just below 20 per cent, or 1 in 5.

What is reassuring from these studies, is it was uncommon for a child to be the first case in a household. We also know that children tend to have mild symptoms or none at all, which further reduces their ability to spread the infection to others.

The risk of transmitting the virus will vary depending on how many people live at home and how crowded the environment is.

Take precautions

If someone in the home is suspected of having COVID-19 or has new symptoms, they should isolate themselves as best as possible and take precautions. This includes caring for the child in a separate room and improving ventilation if possible, for example by opening windows, limiting contact with vulnerable household members like grandparents, wearing masks, and regularly cleaning and disinfecting high touch surfaces such as door handles and cell phones.

Low risk

At this time, our COVID rates remain low which makes the likelihood of children acquiring COVID at school low as well.

Going to school is an extra exposure but by taking some extra precautions in the home for higher risk household members, we can further reduce the potential for household transmission.