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

4 Jan 2022, 3 p.m.

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 sheet 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.

Visit gosh.nhs.uk/staysafe to meet Otto the Octopus and find out how you can help reduce the spread of infection, whether you’re out and about or visiting GOSH.

As 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

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

A: The main symptoms are[IG1] :

- New, continuous cough

- High temperature

- Loss of or change to your sense of smell or taste.

Other symptoms include:

- Extreme Fatigue

- Myalgia (Muscle ache)

- Sore throat

- Shortness of Breath

- Severe persistent headache lasting >24 hours

- Diarrhoea

Read more about symptoms of COVID-19 at nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/.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. If you have the symptoms, you should get a PCR test as soon as possible.

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, do not have visitors (self-isolate), arrange a PCR test as detailed above, 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.

A: The evidence to date 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 changing the way we run some of our services and providing specialty guidance for patients, including those who may be considered immunocompromised or part of a vulnerable group.

A: All viruses have the ability to ‘mutate’ or change over time, and the COVID-19 virus is no different. New variants of the COVID-19 strain are identified as part of the routine surveillance which is carried out by Public Health England. It is normal for a virus to mutate in order to better adapt to infecting people, which is what this virus has done. It is more efficient at causing infection, which is what is meant when you hear talk of it being more transmissible or infectious. All viruses have the capability to adapt in this way, and this is something which was expected. It does not cause more severe disease, but it will infect more people.

However, we know that our current ways of reducing its spread – Hands, Face, Space – are effective in reducing transmission, so whilst in hospital we are asking everyone to carry on using hand sanitiser, wearing a fluid resistant face mask

A: If your child has symptoms including a fever, diarrhoea and abdominal pain, call NHS 111 or access the service online at 111.nhs.uk. If you’re very worried about your child, please call 999 or take them to A&E or an urgent care centre as you normally would. They are open for all children who need care and are safe to attend.

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, abdominal pain, diarrhoea and skin rashes. These symptoms have been compared to a separate condition called Kawasaki disease.

This inflammatory syndrome is affecting only a small number of children, but it's really important that if you do have concerns about your child, you seek urgent treatment. We will continue to follow the latest understanding of this syndrome to make sure we can best care for these patients. Information about PIMS-TS is available at www.gosh.nhs.uk/conditions-and-treatments/conditions-we-treat/paediatric-inflammatory-multisystem-syndrome-pims.

A: Very few children are currently required to shield. You can find guidance for specific patient groups at gosh.nhs.uk/covid-19-specialty-guides.

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 through 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.

A: We need to take extra precautions to keep patients, families and staff as safe as we can. That’s why it’s really important to follow the latest GOSH COVID-19 guidance.

To help keep everyone at GOSH safe, please:

Wear a fluid resistant surgical mask – the hospital will provide these. If you or your child wear one, please make sure you are able to wear it correctly.

Practice good social distancing and hand hygiene

Follow outpatient guidance of only one carer per family coming into hospital. Unfortunately, we cannot accommodate siblings at outpatient appointments.

Watch our animation about staying safe at GOSH and outside the hospital: gosh.nhs.uk/staysafe.

If your child is staying at GOSH, follow the inpatient guidance of:

― Visitors, including all siblings aged 11 and over, must take a lateral flow test before arrival. All visitors must show evidence of a negative test result on arrival to our wards. You can find information on where to obtain a lateral flow test on the government website.

― Resident carers are required to take one PCR test each week, which are provided by the hospital.

― Two carers per family being able to visit, but only one able to stay overnight. These should be the same two people every day to limit the number of people coming into the hospital.

Up to two siblings being able to visit a child who is nursed in a cubicle – with them remaining in the cubicle for their full visit.

― For children being nursed in a bay area, please speak with the ward manager to discuss possible arrangements for siblings to visit.

― Carefully plan the number of people visiting the hospital at any one time. Smaller groups are safer for patients, families, carers and staff at the hospital.

― Please note, we will ask to test your child for coronavirus if they are being admitted or having certain procedures.

A: 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.

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. 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.

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.

A: 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 straight away.

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 prioritising procedures, treatments and appointments for those who most need our care (in order of clinical priority).

We’ve found that virtual appointments are a great way of carrying out consultations when we can’t bring your child into the hospital just yet.

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.

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, do not have visitors (self-isolate), get a PCR test as soon as possible, 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, and our staff – as safe as possible.

Before your visit, we recommend that you watch our family-friendly animation at gosh.nhs.uk/staysafe to meet Otto the Octopus and learn about the four ways you can help us reduce the spread of infection. This includes wearing a hospital provided face mask at all times while you’re at GOSH, unless you’re at your child’s bedside, or eating or drinking. Your child may also be asked to wear a mask when they move around the hospital. This is in line with the latest national guidance.

We will provide masks for you and your child, but if your child isn’t able to wear one, for example if they’re very young, that’s fine. When wearing a mask, make sure it covers your nose, mouth and chin. Try not to touch it while it’s on. Take it off using the loops and clean your hands after you throw it away.As a precaution during the COVID-19 pandemic, we are limiting visitors to the hospital. While we understand that this will be difficult for families, it is helping us greatly reduce the risk of infection, keeping you, your child and everyone else at GOSH safer.

If your child has an outpatient appointment, one carer will be allowed into the hospital, but we are asking that no siblings are brought in so that social distancing can be maintained.

If your child is staying at GOSH overnight or longer, two carers per family will be allowed into the hospital but only one will be able to stay overnight.

In some areas of the hospital including but not limited to the Mildred Creek Unit, visiting arrangements may differ and will be agreed at the time of your child’s admission[JB1] .

Due to social distancing restrictions, only one carer may accompany a child to Theatre or Radiology.

Our staff will keep a careful eye on waiting areas and wards, and may ask you to wait somewhere else if it’s becoming difficult to keep everyone safely spaced.

If you feel it is critical for your child to be accompanied by additional carers, please contact your clinical team in advance of your child’s appointment/admission to discuss your child’s needs directly.

Before your child’s appointment/ admission, we may ask you some questions regarding possible symptoms of coronavirus. While you are in the hospital, we will ask you to wear a mask, and follow guidance regarding good hand hygiene and social distancing. If you develop symptoms during your admission, please inform a member of staff immediately. If anyone in your household tests positive for COVID-19 within 10 days of your child’s admission, please contact your clinical team as soon as possible.

If your child is likely to be staying at GOSH for 15 days or longer, you can nominate another carer to take over from you for the next 7 days, to make sure you get some rest. Speak to your clinical team to find out how this would work and what the nominated carer needs to know. If you’re a parent or carer and are swapping responsibilities with another person, please ensure that a lateral flow test is taken before your visit for the safety of our patients, their families and carers, and our staff. You can find information on where to obtain a lateral flow test on the government website.

If your child is coming to GOSH for a planned admission, you can find everything you need to know before you arrive at gosh.nhs.uk/admissions-during-covid-19.

If you’re coming to GOSH for an outpatient appointment, you should arrive no more than ten minutes before your child’s appointment time. This will help us make sure waiting areas don’t get too crowded. For everything else you need to know before your outpatient appointment, please read our special guidance at gosh.nhs.uk/covid-19-outpatients.

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

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.

We’ll provide face masks for you to wear at all times while you’re at GOSH, unless you’re at your child’s bedside, or eating or drinking.

We will need to test your child for COVID-19, even if they do not have symptoms. The test involves collecting a bit of mucus from their nose and/or throat, using a small tube or cotton bud. It might be a little uncomfortable and make them 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 out exactly what’s involved at gosh.nhs.uk/covid-19-testing.

You may notice other changes as you move around the hospital, for example one-way systems and new waiting area layouts. These changes are helping us to reopen services safely and we appreciate your support in making sure everyone follows the new guidance.

If you have any specific concerns about your child's condition, please raise these with your child's clinical team.

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. They have also been looking at the way we run our clinics and services, making changes to things like the layout of waiting areas and reducing the need for you to travel around the hospital.

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.

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 can watch our family-friendly animation at gosh.nhs.uk/staysafe to meet Otto the octopus and learn what you can do to avoid the spread of infection at

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 patients and the parent accompanying them to GOSH.

The test will involve collecting a bit of mucus from the nose and/or throat, using a small tube or cotton bud. It might be a little uncomfortable and make your child cough or sneeze. You can find out exactly what’s involved at gosh.nhs.uk/covid-19-testing.

This will help us ensure we keep you, your child and everyone else at GOSH as safe as possible. If your child tests positive for COVID-19, we will still ensure they get 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.

A: Pharmacy is remaining open but to reduce the risks of COVID-19 infection, GOSH may need to restrict people coming in. This may also include visiting to collect medication. If visiting for an appointment, you can come to Pharmacy and collect your medication in person. Otherwise, we will make arrangements to post your child’s medicines to your home via Royal Mail Special Delivery. We will call you to discuss collection if applicable and 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, or call Medicines Information on 0207 829 8608

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.

If you are staying at GOSH and your child needs medicines to take home with them, they will be delivered to you on the ward. Please do not come down to Pharmacy, speak to your ward staff first.

A: We aren’t offering vaccines to children on site at GOSH as children who are eligible can either access them through the GP or mass vaccination sites.

You can find out more about vaccinations for children on the NHS website.

A: 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) has reinstated all road charges. See tfl.gov.uk for more information. In specific circumstances, you may be able to be reimbursed for congestion charge payments – visit gosh.nhs.uk/your-hospital-visit/travel-reimbursement to see if you’re eligible.

A: To make sure you have access to hot and cold food all day, our Lagoon restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

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.

A number of shops, cafés and restaurants are open in the local area, operating with social distancing measures in place.

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 limit access to play areas to one patient at a time. We can then clean those areas and toys and help keep children, families and staff safe, We continue to have a variety of ways patients can still access play service such as prepared activity packs including single use crafts patients to use in their own room or bay.

Health Play Specialist support for distraction and other supportive play interventions are available via ward referral and we continue to have access to 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.

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.

We want to make sure our staff feel safe, valued, looked after and able to ask for help if they need it. This has included 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 our staff wearing masks and other types of personal protective equipment (PPE) around the hospital. All staff are following strict guidelines about when PPE should and should not be worn, based on the latest NHS guidance.

Further information and support

Information from the NHS on the NHS website.

Information for children is available on the BBC Newsround website.

Information from the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health on the RCPCH website.

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.

PDF copy of this page available below

Coronavirus (COVID-19) – information for children, young people and families (219.7 KB)

Visit our COVID-19 information hub

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

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