Coronavirus (COVID-19) – information for children, young people and families

We understand that you might be worried about coronavirus – also known as COVID-19 – particularly if your child has a long-term health condition.

This information from Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) sets out our advice and the action we are taking to respond to the coronavirus outbreak. You can find guidance for specific patient groups here.

Because we’re regularly updating this guidance, if you’d like to share it please link directly to gosh.nhs.uk/covid-19-FAQ, rather than quoting or summarising what we’ve said.

We are following official guidance from the NHS, UK Government and World Health Organisation. The situation is changing constantly so we will update this information as needed – you can always check the GOV.UK website at www.gov.uk/coronavirus for up-to-the-minute advice.

Frequently asked questions

Q: What is the coronavirus (COVID-19)?

A: This is a virus that affects the lungs and therefore people’s breathing.

Q: What are the symptoms?

A: The main symptoms are:

  • New, continuous cough
  • High temperature
  • Loss of or change to your sense of smell or taste

However, these are similar to lots of other common illnesses. The only way you can be sure if someone has coronavirus is to test them. Read more about symptoms of COVID-19 at nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/.

If you, your child or anyone else in your household has symptoms of COVID-19, please do not visit your doctor or pharmacist – stay at home and use the NHS 111 online service at 111.nhs.uk for urgent medical advice.

However, if you are worried about your child or feel their life is at risk, you should call 999 or go to your local A&E or urgent care centre as you normally would.

If you are due to attend GOSH and you or your child has symptoms of COVID-19, please call their speciality team for advice and support before visiting the hospital.

Q: Does COVID-19 affect children?

A: The evidence to date (21st May 2020) suggests that although children do develop COVID-19, very few children develop severe symptoms, even if they have an underlying health condition.

At GOSH, we are taking extra precautions to keep our patients safe like providing specialty guidance for patients, including those who may be considered immunocompromised or part of a vulnerable group.

Q. Should I be worried about ‘multisystem inflammatory syndrome’, or symptoms of fever and abdominal pain?

A. If your child has a fever and abdominal pain, call NHS 111 or access the service online at 111.nhs.uk. If you’re worried about your child, please call 999 or take them to A&E or an urgent care centre as you normally would.

You may have seen reports in the media of very unwell children being admitted to hospital with an inflammatory syndrome characterised by symptoms including fever and abdominal pain. These symptoms have been compared to a separate condition called Kawasaki disease.

This inflammatory syndrome is affecting only a small number of children at present and we don’t yet know whether it has a direct link to COVID-19.

We are working with the wider NHS to understand more about the syndrome and how we can best care for children who have it. You can read our statement at gosh.nhs.uk/news/gosh-statement-cases-children-symptoms-including-fever-and-abdominal-pain.

Q: My child has a long-term health condition, what should I do?

A: Our clinical teams are providing specific information for children and young people with underlying health problems, in line with advice from national bodies. You can find guidance for specific patient groups at gosh.nhs.uk/covid-19-specialty-guides. These will be updated regularly and shared via our website and social media.

It may be helpful to review NHS guidance outlining groups who may be at increased risk of severe infection with COVID-19 at nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/people-at-higher-risk-from-coronavirus/whos-at-higher-risk-from-coronavirus. You can find more information below about ‘shielding’ for patient groups considered ‘extremely vulnerable’ to COVID-19.

If you have any questions or concerns, please seek advice from the GOSH teams involved in your child’s care. An easy and secure way to keep in touch is the MyGOSH online portal. Find out more at gosh.nhs.uk/your-hospital-visit/mygosh. Please also consult the latest NHS guidance at nhs.uk.

Q: The NHS has contacted me stating that my child is at the highest clinical risk during the COVID-19 pandemic. What should I do?

A: The NHS is contacting anyone identified as being extremely vulnerable to, or at highest clinical risk from COVID-19. You should follow their advice carefully: stay at home at all times and avoid all face-to-face contact until at least 1st June. This is known as ‘shielding’.

You may have received this guidance in the form of a letter, a text, or both. It is important that anyone recommended to shield by the NHS follows this guidance, unless advised otherwise by your clinical team. As we learn more about the virus, there may be changes to the list of patient groups that need to shield. We appreciate that this advice might cause anxiety, so we have put together some special guidance to clarify what this means for your child and your family. You can access this online at gosh.nhs.uk/covid-19-and-vulnerable-children. You can find further guidance on shielding at nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/people-at-higher-risk-from-coronavirus/whos-at-higher-risk-from-coronavirus

We recognise that some families may find it difficult to shield their child – we’re here to help. GOSH has a number of support services available to families to help you cope and stay shielded. As well as speaking to your child’s clinical team, please contact the PALS team on 020 7829 7862 or pals@gosh.nhs.uk for confidential support and advice.

You can also request support from the Government’s National Shielding Programme, which is providing basic necessities, like food and care, to help individuals and families stay shielded. Register at www.gov.uk/coronavirus-extremely-vulnerable.

Q: My child hasn’t been advised to ‘shield’ by the NHS, but I think they should have been. What should I do?

A: Please review the NHS guidance for vulnerable groups at nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/people-at-higher-risk-from-coronavirus/whos-at-higher-risk-from-coronavirus. As we learn more about how the virus affects different groups of people, this guidance may be updated.

As well as patients, the NHS has also been contacting clinicians to outline the groups advised to shield. This is so that they, including clinicians at GOSH, can review their patient lists and add in any patients they think should be on the shielding list.

You can also find advice from your child’s clinical team in our specialty guidance sheets at gosh.nhs.uk/covid-19-specialty-guides.

If you have any questions or concerns about shielding your child, please contact your clinical team.

Q: What precautions should we take?

A: As of updated Government guidance on 13th May 2020, everyone in the UK has been advised to stay at home as much as possible. Where you absolutely have to leave the house, you should stay at least 2 metres away from anyone you don’t live with. This is called ‘social distancing’.

Everyone should also take the widely published precautions to avoid infection, including good handwashing, and not touching your eyes, nose and mouth. The public are also being advised to wear face coverings when it’s hard to stay away from people. If you choose to wear one, they should only be worn by those who are able to wear them correctly.  

Please note that restrictions on travel, work and time spent outdoors may differ depending on where you live in the UK. Find more guidance at nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/.

If your child has been identified as being at high clinical risk from COVID-19, you can read special shielding advice from GOSH at gosh.nhs.uk/covid-19-and-vulnerable-children. This provides practical advice on what shielding means for your child and your family.

If you are an adult who has been identified as being at high clinical risk from COVID-19, you should follow the shielding guidance on the NHS website.

If your child or a member of your family develops symptoms of COVID-19, please do not go to your GP or pharmacist – stay at home and use the NHS 111 online service at 111.nhs.uk for urgent medical advice and inform  your clinical team at GOSH.

Q: Should my child stop taking their medication if they develop COVID-19?

No, taking medication as prescribed is very important and not taking it could make your child’s condition worse. Please consult your specialty team before making any decisions regarding your child’s medication.

Q: What should I do if my child becomes unwell for reasons unrelated to COVID-19?  

A: If there are changes to your child's underlying condition, please contact the GOSH teams involved in your child’s care as you usually would.

An easy and secure way to do this is through the MyGOSH online portal at gosh.nhs.uk/your-hospital-visit/mygosh. We are doing our best to respond to your queries quickly, but this might take a little longer than usual in some cases.

You can also call NHS 111 or visit 111.nhs.uk for medical advice, 24 hours a day. However, if you are worried about your child or feel their life is at risk, you should always call 999 or go to your local A&E or urgent care centre as you normally would.

The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) has produced a helpful poster for parents and carers who may be worried or unsure about what to do if their child is unwell or injured during the COVID-19 outbreak.

It is important to follow Government advice , but remember that NHS 111, GPs and hospitals are continuing to provide safe care should your family need it.

Please note that the RCPCH poster provides general advice for all children. It doesn’t take into account your child’s specific condition or their personal health and care plan. If you have any questions, please seek advice from the GOSH teams involved in your child’s care.

Q: Will my child’s upcoming appointment or admission be cancelled?

A: To make sure we can deliver care to children and young people who need it most urgently, we have changed the way we run some of our services, including postponing some procedures, appointments and admissions.

Our clinical teams are looking at each patient carefully to work out which patients absolutely need to come into hospital, which clinics and consultations can be done another way such as video or phone calls, and which appointments, procedures and admissions can be rescheduled safely.

If we do need to postpone your child’s procedure, admission or appointment, we will contact you directly as soon as we can. We hope you understand that this might take a little longer than usual and we may not be able to give you details of the new appointment or admission date just now.

Q: My child’s appointment or admission was postponed or cancelled. I’m worried the delay will affect their health.

A: We know delays to treatment can cause great anxiety, particularly when we might not be able to give you a new date for your appointment or admission.

Your child’s health remains our number one priority. Our clinical teams are looking at every patient individually, and only postponing procedures and appointments when we think it’s safe to do so.

As we begin re-starting planned appointments and admissions in the coming weeks, your clinical team are working hard to prioritise those who need our care most urgently.

We know how worrying delays can be and we are doing our best to minimise these while making sure we provide care safely and in line with advice from the Government.

If you have any questions or are worried about your visits to GOSH, get in touch with your clinical team through the MyGOSH online portal gosh.nhs.uk/your-hospital-visit/mygosh.

Q: My child has a confirmed appointment or admission coming up. What do we need to know before we arrive?

A: Our doctors and infection control specialists have been working together closely and listening carefully to national guidance to ensure we can provide your child with the care they need at GOSH safely.

If you are due to visit GOSH and you, or your child, is experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, or you think you may have come into close contact with someone affected, please call your child’s speciality team for support before visiting the hospital. Please do not go to your GP or pharmacist – stay at home and use the NHS 111 online service at 111.nhs.uk for urgent medical advice.

If you are coming to GOSH, there are some guidelines and behaviours we’re asking families to follow, both before your visit and while you’re at the hospital. These are an important part of the measures we’ve put in place to keep everyone at the hospital – patients, families, our staff – as safe as possible.

When your child visits GOSH, only one carer per family will be allowed into the hospital. This should be the same carer each day. Unfortunately, siblings will not be able to visit the hospital.

While we understand that these measures will be difficult for families, limiting the number of visitors to the hospital helps us greatly reduce the risk of infection, keeping you, your child and everyone else at GOSH safer.

However, we know there may be some cases where it’s critical to have more than one carer. If you feel this is the case, please contact your child’s clinical team to discuss your child’s needs directly.

If your child is coming to GOSH for a planned admission, they may need to self-isolate before and after coming to the hospital, along with the parent or carer who will accompany them. If this is required, we will always contact you in advance of your visit to discuss any questions or worries you may have.

If you have any questions or concerns about your upcoming trip to GOSH, please contact the PALS team on 020 7829 7862 or pals@gosh.nhs.uk or your clinical team via MyGOSH at gosh.nhs.uk/your-hospital-visit/mygosh.

Q: What should we expect when we arrive?

A: When you visit GOSH, you may notice that things look or run slightly differently than previously. These steps have been put in place to keep everyone at GOSH as safe as possible. Things may continue to change as we respond to the latest guidance, but we will always contact you if there are any major changes to your child’s appointment, admission or procedure.

When you arrive at one of our main entrances, only one adult will be allowed to enter the hospital, and no siblings will be able to visit. Where possible, our GOSH Guides will then take you to the ward or give you directions. If other family members must travel with you to GOSH, they will need to wait outside. We ask that they follow social distancing guidelines and stay two metres away from other people in the area.

If you’re arriving for an inpatient stay, we will test your child for COVID-19, even if they do not have symptoms. We will also offer to test you as their parent or carer. The test involves collecting a bit of mucus from your nose and/or throat, using a small tube or cotton bud. It might be a little uncomfortable and make you cough or sneeze. This will help us ensure we keep you, your child and everyone else at GOSH as safe as possible. You can find more details below, under ‘What about testing’.

Please also check our specialty FAQs at gosh.nhs.uk/covid-19-specialty-guides. These may include specific advice for your child and what to expect when you visit GOSH.

Q: What are you doing to protect visitors to the hospital?

A: We understand that some families might be worried about visiting GOSH during the COVID-19 pandemic. We want you to know that your safety, and the safety of all our patients, families and staff, is our number one priority.

You might notice fewer hospital staff around the building. We have thought very carefully about how many people we need to deliver care safely to our patients, while minimising the number of people in the building. Our clinical teams have been reviewing every procedure, admission and appointment carefully to determine which patients are able to come to the hospital, which appointments can be delivered by other means, and which can be delayed safely.

We are also advising staff, patients and families to follow social distancing and handwashing guidelines wherever possible. You might notice our friendly starfish floor stickers around the hospital, reminding everyone to keep a safe distance.

You will see staff wearing various types of personal protective equipment (PPE), like masks and aprons. They’re trained on how to reduce the risk of passing on the virus within the hospital, including when masks and other types of PPE should be worn and how cleaning activities should be carried out across the hospital. This is based on the latest national guidance for COVID-19 infection control.

While at GOSH, you and your child may also be offered a mask to wear during your visit. This is to protect all patients, families and staff, especially those at increased risk because of COVID-19, and to help families feel safe while visiting the hospital.

If you do wear a mask, it’s very important that you put it on and dispose of it properly. You’ll be given guidance on how to do this when you visit the ward, but if you’re unsure or have any questions, please speak to a member of the clinical team.

Q: What about testing?

A: We're listening carefully to the latest national guidance on COVID-19 testing, to make sure we keep you, your family and our staff as safe as possible. In line with the latest advice, we are now testing all patients who come to GOSH for an inpatient stay, as well as offering a test to the parent or carer who accompanies them.

The test will involve collecting a bit of mucus from your nose and/or throat, using a small tube or cotton bud. It might be a little uncomfortable and make you cough or sneeze.

This will help us ensure we keep you, your child and everyone else at GOSH as safe as possible. If you or your child test positive for COVID-19, we will still ensure your child gets the care and treatment they need. If you have any concerns about having the test, please contact your clinical team.

We have clear processes in place to immediately isolate anyone found to be positive, while continuing to deliver expert care and follow strict infection control guidelines. If you or your child have symptoms before you come to GOSH, please call your clinical team before you leave, for advice and support.

Staff who start to show symptoms while they are at work will immediately remove themselves from clinical areas for the safety of their patients.

For key hospital staff who have been isolating at home, we have a very clear process to decide when and how it’s safe for them to return to work. This goes above and beyond Government guidelines and is designed to make sure no-one returns to work unless they are fully recovered and not putting others at risk.

Q. How do I get my child’s medicines?

A: To reduce the risks of COVID-19 infection, we need to restrict people coming to GOSH. This includes visiting to collect medication. We are making arrangements to post your child’s medicines to your home via Royal Mail Special Delivery. We will contact you to discuss your child’s specific needs and preferences.

We hope this helps to ensure your child’s medicine supply is not affected in the current situation. As always, please make sure you have at least two weeks’ supply of regular and long-term medicines. If you have moved home recently, please make sure that we have your current address and contact details. If you have any queries about your child’s medicines, please contact your Clinical Nurse Specialist, check the Electronic Medicines Compendium website or email Medicine.Information@gosh.nhs.uk.

You can also use the MyGOSH online portal to keep in touch with your child’s clinical team, discuss their medicines, view test results, change appointments and more. Find out more and register at gosh.nhs.uk/your-hospital-visit/mygosh.

Q: Can we drive to GOSH? What about parking?

A: We have arrangements with several local car parks to offer parking for free or at a reduced rate. Learn more about parking at GOSH here or ask at main reception (open 24/7) when you arrive at the hospital.

Please note that Transport for London (TFL) recently reinstated congestion charges and other road fees, effective from 18 May. See tfl.gov.uk for more information.

Q: Some local cafés and shops are closed. How will we get food?

A: To make sure you have access to hot and cold food all day, our Lagoon café has extended its opening hours and will now be open 7am to 11pm, seven days a week.

You’ll find a selection of main meals to choose from, including Halal and vegetarian options. There are also lighter snacks, fresh fruit and delicious puddings.

You may find some shops open in the local area, who will be operating with social distancing measures in place.

Q: Will the play team still be here to support my child during our appointment, procedure or admission?

A: Play is an essential part of the support provided to patients at GOSH, and the hospital’s dedicated Play team will continue to work with patients at the hospital during this time, while following all the infection control guidelines that are in place. As part of this, we have taken the decision to close play areas, but have a variety of ways patients can still access play services.

The Play team have prepared activity packs including single use crafts, protected in sealed bags, for patients and their carer to use in their own room or bay. Play Specialist support for distraction is available as well as a range of sensory toys that are soothing.

If you have any questions about how to access the support of our Play team, please check the sign on the ward’s play room door, speak to your ward’s Play Specialist, or ask the Nurse in Charge. You can find online resources for families, including activities recommended by the Play team, at gosh.nhs.uk/news/coronavirus-covid-19-information-hub/covid-19-resources-families.

Q: Is the GOSH school open?

A: In line with government guidance, there is currently no teaching in our schoolrooms or on wards. This includes GOSH and University College Hospital.

Our teaching teams thank you for your patience and understanding at this difficult time. They will remain in touch and continue to offer virtual support and educational advice wherever they can.

There are lots of ways for your child to continue with their learning. You can find guidance and recommendations on our website at gosh.nhs.uk/goshschool.

Q: What are you doing to protect GOSH staff?

A: Supporting our wonderful staff is a major priority for GOSH. We are carefully following updates in Public Health England (PHE) advice, including changes to PPE recommendations.

Staff will continue to receive regular updates on PHE guidance, and staff who do not work directly with children, young people and families will work from home, if their job allows it.

We want to make sure our staff feel safe, valued, looked after and able to ask for help if they need it. This includes offering support with things like accommodation near the hospital and on-site food provision, as well as free services to support mental health and wellbeing.

You will see some of our staff wearing masks around the hospital. All staff are following strict guidelines about when masks should and should not be worn, based on the latest NHS guidance.

Information from our specialty departments

You can find guidance for specific patient groups here. These were put together by our specialist clinical teams and are being reviewed and added to regularly. 

Further information and support

Information from the NHS on the NHS website.

Information for children is available on the BBC Newsround website.

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Visit our COVID-19 information hub

Find our coronavirus specialty guidance, resources, and news all in one place: COVID-19 information hub