Everyone has questions about coronavirus (COVID-19), including how it affects schools, students, and teachers. Here are answers to some common questions.

What Are the Signs & Symptoms of Coronavirus (COVID-19)?

COVID-19 can cause a fever, cough, and trouble breathing. Some people might have:

  • symptoms of a cold such as a sore throat, congestion, or a runny nose
  • chills
  • muscle pain
  • headache
  • a loss of taste or smell
  • nausea or vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • tiredness

The virus can be more serious in some people. And some people have no symptoms at all.

How Is Coronavirus (COVID-19) Treated?

Most people with COVID-19, including children, do not have serious problems. After seeing a doctor, most get better with rest and fluids. People who are very ill get care in a hospital with breathing help, IV fluids, and other treatments.

Doctors and researchers are working on medicines and a vaccine for coronavirus. Antibiotics can't treat viruses so they won't help with the coronavirus. Medicines for the flu don't work either because the coronavirus is different from the flu virus.

Can Kids Go to School During the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic?

Some schools did reopen for in-person learning this fall.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and other health groups say that getting kids back in school is best for their physical, mental, social, and emotional health. It's also how kids learn best.

To help prevent the spread of coronavirus, schools may limit class sizes, stagger schedules, or offer online (remote) learning. Some schools may offer a hybrid of online and in-person learning. Those schools that have in-person learning may require kids and teachers to wear masks, maintain social distancing, and take other precautions.

How Can We Protect Against COVID-19 at School?

Kids are less likely to catch and spread the coronavirus than adults. Health experts say that going to school with safeguards in place helps protect students and lowers their chances of getting the virus. These include:

  • washing hands and cleaning surfaces often
  • wearing masks or cloth face coverings
  • keeping kids spaced apart
  • staggered schedules
  • grouping the same students and teachers together throughout the school day 

If healthy kids do get coronavirus, they are less likely than adults to have symptoms or to get very sick. And, while worrisome to parents, the inflammatory disorder called multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MIS-C) that some kids get after having coronavirus is rare.

What Safety Measures Are Schools and Teachers Using?

Safety precautions used at many schools include:

  • Cleaning and disinfecting. Schools should follow advice from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for cleaning and disinfecting common areas. Surfaces that get touched a lot (such as bathroom handles and knobs, keyboards, and doorknobs) should be cleaned as often as possible but at least daily.
  • Health screenings and monitoring. Schools may check kids for symptoms of coronavirus each day. This can include temperature checks and symptom surveys at home or in school. If someone gets sick, there should be a process for isolating them, reporting exposures, and returning to school. Students, teachers, or school staff should stay home if they are sick. Kids should not go to school if they have had close contact with someone with COVID-19.
  • Face coverings. All adults should wear masks or cloth face coverings, as should middle school and high school students. Preschoolers and elementary school-age kids — if they can keep from touching their faces a lot — also should wear masks.
  • Hand washing. Students and staff should wash their hands with soap and water well and often. They also can use hand sanitizer if water is not available.
  • Social distancing (also called physical distancing). Adults and students should stay 6 feet apart whenever possible. In the classroom, spacing desks 3–6 feet apart and having students wear cloth face coverings will help prevent the spread of coronavirus.
  • Class or group size. Some schools may limit class sizes, place students in cohorts, stagger schedules, or do a hybrid of online and in-person learning. A cohort is a group of students and teachers who stay together throughout the school day.
  • Other ways to lower risk. Schools across the country are figuring out creative ways to reduce the spread of germs. They might:
    • Hold classes and activities outside as much as possible.
    • Have teachers change rooms rather than kids.
    • Have meals in the classroom instead of the cafeteria.
    • Mark floors to show students where to stand and walk.
    • Have students ride the bus in assigned seats that are distanced apart.

Schools that follow these practices can lower the chances of COVID-19 spreading among students and staff. But that doesn't mean infections can't still happen. In case of an outbreak, schools should have a plan ready that includes full-time distance learning at home.

What Else Should I Know?

The coronavirus pandemic continues to change, so it's important for schools and families to be flexible.

You can find more information on returning to school safely on the CDC's website. If students or families have been traveling or plan to, your school should follow recommendations from your local health authority. The CDC's site also has updated travel information.

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Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor. © 1995-2021 KidsHealth®. All rights reserved. Images provided by The Nemours Foundation, iStock, Getty Images, Veer, Shutterstock, and Clipart.com.