June 1st, 2020

The Kid's Doctor

A diagnosis of coronavirus. Now what?

Sue Hubbard, M.D.

By Sue Hubbard, M.D.

Published Nov. 27, 2017

A diagnosis of coronavirus. Now what?

Coronavirus is here. Does that worry you? It is causing a lot of concern among mothers in my practice and community, as they are posting "my son has coronavirus" on social media. Of course, that leads to a Google search; and the next thing you know I have parents calling concerned about SARS (a rare complication).

Coronavirus (which is named for the crown-like shape of the viral particles under a microscope) is just another fall and winter virus that typically causes cold-like symptoms with a scratchy throat, congestion, a runny nose and a cough. It may also cause several days of fever. Coronavirus "acts" like many of the other viruses that we are seeing now, including rhinovirus and parainfluenza.

While most everyone gets a coronavirus infection in their lifetime, knowing the name of the virus really doesn't change anything about the treatment. Having your child's nose or throat swabbed and sent for a fairly expensive test so that "you may have peace of mind" does not dictate any different treatment than that of any other respiratory virus. Symptomatic relief has been the advice for treating all of these upper respiratory infections, long before we could test for them in an office setting.

How do you treat it? Treat the fever, if there is one, and do not send your child to daycare or school until they have been fever-free for 24 hours. (You also need to stay home if you have a fever.) Use over-the-counter saline nose drops to help suction your child's nose or to help thin the mucous so that they can "blow" more effectively. Take a steamy shower to relieve the congestion and loosen the cough. Use a cool mist humidifier in your child's room (especially if you have the heat running). Make sure to teach your children how to "cough into their elbow" rather than their hands.

I am continuing to hold a lot of hands as parents worry about all of these different respiratory viruses, but naming them is not going to change treatment in the otherwise healthy child. Making sure your child washes their hands, and try to teach your older children to keep their hands away from their eyes, nose and mouth will serve you better than worrying about which virus they may have been exposed to.

In the case of any illness, if you become concerned about respiratory distress and how your child is breathing, you need to place an immediate call to your pediatrician or a visit the ER. Do not be so concerned about naming the illness.

Dr. Sue Hubbard is an award-winning pediatrician, medical editor and media host. "The Kid's Doctor" TV feature can be seen on more than 90 stations across the U.S. Submit questions at