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COVID-2019 Alert

Information about the 2019 Novel Coronavirus. Read the latest >

Información sobre el coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19). Aprenda más >

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Physicians explain why it’s safe to take kids to their wellness checks during the pandemic.

Dr. Lund and Dr. Lee

 

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Information About the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Updated July 24, 2020

At Stanford Children’s Health, we are always learning, developing and exploring in our effort to provide high-quality care to our patient families, and to support our care teams, staff, and community. With schools across the nation and here in California adapting to a new normal to keep students and teachers safe upon reopening, Stanford Children's Health is here to serve as your health resource for kids, and those who care for them.

Surgeries and procedures
Stanford Children’s Health has resumed nonemergency (elective) surgeries and postponed procedures, as well as in-person clinic visits. If you have questions about appointments or scheduled procedures, please reach out to your doctor’s office via MyChart or by phone.

Clinic visits
Stanford Children’s Health physicians want to remind families to not delay routine care and to keep up with your child’s immunization schedules. This provides them with important protection from other dangerous viruses and bacteria. Specialty service and primary care clinics are seeing patients in person as needed and have safety protocols already in place. If you are concerned about attending your pediatrician appointment due to COVID-19, talk to your health care provider. Your family’s safety remains our top priority. Many clinic visits and consultations are also being conducted via telehealth. Your doctor’s office will let you know if a telehealth appointment is appropriate for your upcoming visit.

Safety steps
At Stanford Children’s Health, we are focused on restoring operations back to normal, in the safest way possible. Learn how we are responding to COVID-19, policies in place to keep you safe, what to expect during your visits, visitor restrictions and more helpful resources. We are also following the latest guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), along with local and state health agency practices, to reduce the risk of exposure to the coronavirus and to ensure that we are a safe place to come for those who need to be here.

We’ve taken these steps, and many more, so that our patients and their families can be confident that when you need care, there is no better or safer place to be. Below is an FAQ to help keep you informed about COVID-19, developments at Stanford Children’s Health, and steps you can take to protect yourself.

Stanford Children’s Health welcomes generous donations of unused and unopened supplies of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Our health care workers are on the front lines during the COVID-19 outbreak, and our number one priority is their safety and that of our patients.

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Frequently Asked Questions

About COVID-19

Q: What is a novel coronavirus?

A: A novel coronavirus is a new coronavirus that has not been previously identified. The virus causing coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), is not the same as the coronaviruses that commonly circulate among humans and cause mild illness, like the common cold.

A diagnosis with coronavirus 229E, NL63, OC43, or HKU1 is not the same as a COVID-19 diagnosis. Patients with COVID-19 will be evaluated and cared for differently than patients with common coronavirus diagnosis.

How it spreads

Q: How does the virus spread?

A: The virus that causes COVID-19 is thought to spread mainly from person to person, mainly through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs. Spread is more likely when people are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet).

COVID-19 seems to be spreading easily and sustainably in the community (“community spread”) in many affected geographic areas. Community spread means people have been infected with the virus in an area, including some who are not sure how or where they became infected.

Q: Can someone who has had COVID-19 spread the illness to others?

A: The virus that causes COVID-19 is spreading from person-to-person. Someone who is actively sick with COVID-19 can spread the illness to others. That is why CDC recommends that these patients be isolated either in the hospital or at home (depending on how sick they are) until they are better and no longer pose a risk of infecting others.

How long someone is actively sick can vary so the decision on when to release someone from isolation is made on a case-by-case basis in consultation with doctors, infection prevention and control experts, and public health officials and involves considering specifics of each situation including disease severity, illness signs and symptoms, and results of laboratory testing for that patient.

Current CDC guidance for when it is OK to release someone from isolation is made on a case-by-case basis and includes meeting all of the following requirements:

  • The patient is free from fever without the use of fever-reducing medications.
  • The patient is no longer showing symptoms, including cough.
  • The patient has tested negative on at least two consecutive respiratory specimens collected at least 24 hours apart.

Someone who has been released from isolation is not considered to pose a risk of infection to others.

Q: Can someone who has been quarantined for COVID-19 spread the illness to others?

A: Quarantine means separating a person or group of people who have been exposed to a contagious disease but have not developed illness (symptoms) from others who have not been exposed, in order to prevent the possible spread of that disease. Quarantine is usually established for the incubation period of the communicable disease, which is the span of time during which people have developed illness after exposure.

For COVID-19, the period of quarantine is 14 days from the last date of exposure, because 14 days is the longest incubation period seen for similar coronaviruses. Someone who has been released from COVID-19 quarantine is not considered a risk for spreading the virus to others because they have not developed illness during the incubation period.

How to protect yourself

Q: How can I help protect myself?

A: Visit the COVID-19 Prevention and Treatment page to learn about how to protect yourself from respiratory illnesses, like COVID-19.

CDC always recommends everyday preventive actions to help prevent the spread of respiratory diseases, including:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Put distance between yourself and other people. Keep about 6 feet between yourself and others.
  • Remember that some people without symptoms may be able to spread virus.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
  • CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies) especially in areas of significant community-based transmission.
    • Cloth face coverings should not be placed on young children under age 2, anyone who has trouble breathing, or is unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance.
    • The cloth face coverings recommended are not surgical masks or N-95 respirators. Those are critical supplies that must continue to be reserved for healthcare workers and other medical first responders, as recommended by current CDC guidance.

For information about handwashing, see CDC’s Handwashing website.

For information specific to health care, see CDC’s Hand Hygiene in Health Care Settings.

These are everyday habits that can help prevent the spread of several viruses. 

Q: What should I do if I had close contact with someone who has COVID-19?

A: There is information for people who have had close contact with a person confirmed to have, or being evaluated for, COVID-19 available online.

Symptoms and testing

Q: What are the symptoms and complications that COVID-19 can cause?

A: Current symptoms reported for patients with COVID-19 have included mild to severe respiratory illness with fever, cough, and difficulty breathing.

Q: Should I be tested for COVID-19?

A: If you develop symptoms such as fever, cough, and/or difficulty breathing, and have been in close contact with a person known to have COVID-19 or have recently traveled from an area with ongoing spread of COVID-19, stay home and call your healthcare provider.

Older patients and individuals who have severe underlying medical conditions or are immunocompromised should contact their healthcare provider early, even if their illness is mild.

If you have severe symptoms, such as persistent pain or pressure in the chest, new confusion or inability to arouse, or bluish lips of face, contact your healthcare provider or emergency room and seek care immediately. Your doctor will determine if you have signs and symptoms of COVID-19 and whether you should be tested.

Q: Can a person test negative and later test positive for COVID-19?

A: Yes, it is possible. You may test negative if the sample was collected early in your infection and test positive later during this illness. You could also be exposed to COVID-19 after the test and get infected then. Even if you test negative, you still should take steps to protect yourself and others. See Testing for Current Infection for more information.

Expectant mothers

Q: Are pregnant women more susceptible to infection, or at increased risk with COVID-19?

A: Based on what we know at this time, pregnant people might be at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19 compared to non-pregnant people. Additionally, there may be an increased risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes, such as preterm birth, among pregnant people with COVID-19.

Actions to take if you are pregnant

  • Do not skip your prenatal care appointments.
  • Limit your interactions with other people as much as possible.
  • Take precautions to prevent getting COVID-19 when you do interact with others.
  • Make sure that you have at least a 30-day supply of your medicines.
  • Talk to your healthcare provider about how to stay healthy and take care of yourself during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • If you don’t have a healthcare provider, contact your nearest community health center or health department.
  • Call your healthcare provider if you have any questions related to your health.
  • Seek care immediately if you have a medical emergency.
  • You may feel increased stress during this pandemic. Fear and anxiety can be overwhelming and cause strong emotions. Learn about stress and coping.
  • Learn more about how to reduce your risk of getting COVID-19.

Q: How can pregnant women protect themselves from getting COVID-19?

A: Pregnant women should do the same things as the general public to avoid infection. You can help stop the spread of COVID-19 by taking these actions:

  • Wear a cloth face covering
  • Cover your cough (using your elbow is a good technique)
  • Avoid people who are sick
  • Clean your hands often using soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer

You can find additional information on preventing COVID-19 disease at CDC’s (Prevention for 2019 Novel Coronavirus).

Q: Can COVID-19 be passed from a pregnant woman to the fetus or newborn?

A: According to the CDC, mother-to-child transmission of coronavirus during pregnancy is unlikely, but after birth a newborn is susceptible to person-to-person spread. A very small number of babies have tested positive for the virus shortly after birth. However, it is unknown if these babies got the virus before or after birth. The virus has not been detected in amniotic fluid, breastmilk, or other maternal samples.

Learn more about the changes Stanford Children’s Health is doing to safeguard pregnant mothers.

Q: If a pregnant woman has COVID-19 during pregnancy, will it hurt the baby?

A: We do not know at this time what if any risk is posed to infants of a pregnant woman who has COVID-19. There have been a small number of reported problems with pregnancy or delivery (e.g. preterm birth) in babies born to mothers who tested positive for COVID-19 during their pregnancy. However, it is not clear that these outcomes were related to maternal infection.

Q: If a laboring mother has a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19, how can she prevent from passing it to her newborn baby?

A: To reduce the risk of transmission of the virus that causes COVID-19 from the mother to the newborn, the CDC recommends temporarily separating (e.g., separate rooms) the mother who has confirmed COVID-19 or is a PUI from her baby until the mother’s transmission-based precautions are discontinued, as described in the Interim Considerations for Disposition of Hospitalized Patients with COVID-19.

Q:  What are some guidelines on breastfeeding for mothers with confirmed COVID-19 or under investigation for COVID-19?

A: Breast milk is the best source of nutrition for most infants. However, much is unknown about COVID-19. Whether and how to start or continue breastfeeding should be determined by the mother in coordination with her family and healthcare providers.  

A mother with confirmed COVID-19 or who is a symptomatic PUI should take all possible precautions to avoid spreading the virus to her infant, including washing her hands before touching the infant and wearing a face mask, if possible, while feeding at the breast. 

If expressing breast milk with a manual or electric breast pump, the mother should wash her hands before touching any pump or bottle parts and follow recommendations for proper pump cleaning after each use. If possible, consider having someone who is well feed the expressed breast milk to the infant.

Q: Can the transmission of COVID-19 be spread through breast milk?

A: Much is unknown about how COVID-19 is spread. Person-to-person spread is thought to occur mainly via respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes, similar to how influenza (flu) and other respiratory pathogens spread. In limited studies on women with COVID-19 and another coronavirus infection, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV), the virus has not been detected in breast milk; however we do not know whether mothers with COVID-19 can transmit the virus via breast milk.

An interim guidance on breastfeeding for a mother confirmed or under investigation for COVID-19 can be found on the CDC website.

Q: I am worried about going to my prenatal or postpartum appointments during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

A: Do not skip your prenatal care appointments or postpartum appointments due to COVID-19. Talk to your healthcare provider and ask what safety measures are they doing to keep patients safe. 

Some healthcare providers might choose to cancel or postpone some visits. Others may switch certain appointments to telemedicine visits, which are appointments over the phone or video. These decisions will be based on the circumstances in your community as well as your individual care plan.

Call your healthcare provider if you have an urgent medical question.

COVID-19 and children

Q: What is the risk of my child becoming sick with COVID-19?

A: Based on available evidence, children do not appear to be at higher risk for COVID-19 than adults. While some children and infants have been sick with COVID-19, adults make up most of the known cases to date. You can learn more about who is at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19 at “People who are at higher risk for severe illness”.

Q: What about children who have preexisting conditions and/or additional health risks?

A: At this time, in children, we are not yet sure if specific underlying medical conditions are associated with worsened disease. In older adults, certain preexisting health problems are associated with more severe cases of COVID-19.

At present, Stanford Children’s Health care teams are advising pediatric patients with existing medical conditions to follow the same guidelines that are in place for all children, including social distancing and thorough handwashing.

Parents should contact their pediatrician if their child shows signs of COVID-19, and follow their doctor’s directions on obtaining testing if appropriate. Parents of patients with subspecialty needs should call their subspecialty providers if their child is diagnosed with or being tested for COVID-19, so that their care team can advise them in real time.

Q: What is pediatric multi-system inflammatory syndrome, and how is it linked to the coronavirus?

A: The CDC is collaborating with domestic and international partners to investigate reports of multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C) associated with COVID-19. CDC and partners are working to better understand this new syndrome, including how common it is and its risk factors, and to begin tracking cases.

Infectious disease experts at Stanford Children’s Health want to reassure families that this complication is very rare and are closely monitoring reports about the disease as scientists around the world work to understand MIS-C. It is currently unknown if multisystem inflammatory syndrome is specific to children or if it also occurs in adults.

The syndrome resembles other inflammatory diseases and has certain characteristics in common with Kawasaki disease, which is rare and typically affects children age 5 and younger, though it can occur in older kids. 

Q: How can I protect my child from COVID-19 infection?

A: You can encourage your child to help stop the spread of COVID-19 by teaching them to do the same things everyone should do to stay healthy.

  • Clean hands often using soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid people who are sick (coughing and sneezing).
  • Clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces daily in household common areas (e.g. tables, hard-backed chairs, doorknobs, light switches, remotes, handles, desks, toilets, sinks).
  • Launder items including washable plush toys as appropriate in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. If possible, launder items using the warmest appropriate water setting for the items and dry items completely. Dirty laundry from an ill person can be washed with other people’s items.

You can find additional information on preventing COVID-19 at Prevention for 2019 Novel Coronavirus and at Preventing COVID-19 Spread in Communities. Additional information on how COVID-19 is spread is available at How COVID-19 Spreads.

Q: Are the symptoms of COVID-19 different in children than in adults?

A: No. The symptoms of COVID-19 are similar in children and adults. However, children with confirmed COVID-19 have generally presented with mild symptoms. Reported symptoms in children include cold-like symptoms, such as fever, runny nose, and cough. Vomiting and diarrhea have also been reported. It’s not known yet whether some children may be at higher risk for severe illness, for example, children with underlying medical conditions and special health care needs. There is much more to be learned about how the disease impacts children.

Q: Should children wear masks?

A: The CDC recommends everyone to wear a cloth face covering in public settings. However, cloth face coverings should not be placed on young children under age 2, anyone who has trouble breathing, or is unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance.

COVID-19 and chronic conditions

Q: If my child has a chronic health condition or compromised immune system, are they at a higher risk for COVID-19?

A: At this time, in children, the CDC is not sure if specific underlying medical conditions are associated with worsened disease. Based on currently available information and clinical expertise, in older adults, certain preexisting health problems are associated with more severe cases of COVID-19. Information about who is at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19 is available from the CDC.

Children with complex, chronic medical conditions, including children with physical, developmental, behavioral, or emotional differences, can have special healthcare needs. It’s not known yet whether all of these children are at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19.

Although most COVID-19 cases in children are not severe, serious illness that needs to be treated at the hospital still happens. Some data on children reported that the majority who needed hospitalization for COVID-19 had at least one underlying medical condition. The most common underlying conditions reported among children with COVID-19 include chronic lung disease (including asthma), heart disease, and conditions that weaken the immune system.

Learn more about caring for children with special health care needs during a disaster and people who are at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19.

Q: What additional precautions should my family be taking at home—if any—if my child has a chronic condition?

A: At present, Stanford Children’s Health care teams are advising pediatric patients with existing medical conditions to follow the same guidelines that are in place for all children. These include:

  • Stay home if you are feeling sick.
  • Keep six feet away from others if you are outside your home.
  • Clean your home every day.
  • Stay away from anyone who has a fever or is sick.
  • Wash your hands often for at least 20 seconds. Use soap and water or sanitizer gel with at least 60% alcohol.
  • Avoid touching your face.
  • Give medicines as prescribed for your child’s underlying conditions.
  • Make sure that you have at least a 30-day supply of your child’s medicines.
  • Call your child’s healthcare provider if you have concerns and to discuss your child’s specific conditions and risk for severe illness from COVID-19.
  • Well-child visits and vaccines are still important during the COVID-19 pandemic. Stay in contact with your child’s healthcare provider and make sure your child is up to date with vaccines to prevent other diseases. Learn more about how to protect yourself and your family during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • If you don’t have a healthcare provider, contact your nearest community health center or health department.

Q: What should I do if my child develops symptoms of COVID-19?

A: In accordance with recommendations from the CDC, before heading to urgent care or the ER directly, speak with your pediatrician to discuss if testing is warranted. 

Q: What steps are being taken at the hospital and Stanford Children’s Health clinics to protect patients from becoming infected with COVID-19?

A: With standard protocols in place at all times and working closely with our local and national government health agencies to update protocols as necessary, Stanford Children’s Health is well-prepared to continue caring for patients. These precautionary measures include:

  • Symptom screening of patients and caregivers are conducted at the main entrances to our clinics. Of note, pulmonology patients with a cough will still be allowed into clinic if they do not have other COVID-19 symptoms, such as fever.
  • The existing visitor restrictions policy remains in place to limit the number of people in the hospital and clinics and to protect our patients and staff.
  • When possible, alternate clinic entrances are utilized, and patients will be taken directly to exam rooms once they have checked in.

Q: During the COVID-19 outbreak, will I be able to obtain the medications and medical supplies that are necessary for my child’s care?

A: The CDC advises asking your pharmacy for extra medication, or ordering additional medication by mail. Consider keeping a two-week supply of prescription and over the counter medications, supplies, food and other essentials. If you have specific concerns about any of your medications, contact your doctor.

Q: If my child has an emergency that requires medical attention, what should I do?

A: Even in these unprecedented times, your child’s health needs shouldn’t go unattended. Our emergency department is open and ready to provide care for you if you need us.

Q: What should I do if I am a new patient?

A: Our new patient schedulers and nurse coordinators are continuing to take referrals for new patients. Priority is given to those who are newly diagnosed or based on progression of disease. Telehealth appointments may also be available for some new patients.

Q: My child has a home therapist who supports their ongoing care. Should they continue coming to work?

A: Anyone providing care for your child should follow the CDC’s recommended steps to avoid infection and help stop the spread of COVID-19, including covering one’s cough and washing hands often using soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer. If your child’s caregiver is sick, they should not come to work and should contact their doctor for further evaluation.

For additional questions specific to your child’s case or condition, please contact your provider.

COVID-19 and Stanford

Q: What is Stanford Children’s Health doing about COVID-19?

A: As soon as the CDC sent an alert about the outbreak, our Emerging Infectious Diseases subcommittee was activated. The subcommittee, along with the Infection Prevention & Control Department, relies on information from the CDC, World Health Organization, State and local County Public Health Departments to maintain the most current information and recommendations. They also provide guidelines for screening of patients and procedures for health care workers to follow should a patient require isolation, and to ensure patient and health care worker safety. 

With standard protocols in place at all times and working closely with our local and national government health agencies to update protocols as necessary, Stanford Children’s Health is well-prepared to care for patients with symptoms of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

Q: Is it safe to go to the hospital or doctor’s office?

A: Stanford Children’s Health has well-established measures in place to prevent transmission of all communicable diseases, including flu and other respiratory illnesses. There are respiratory etiquette stations for persons visiting with cough, and hand sanitizer is available. Our staff is trained to screen patients for cough, fever, and recent travel when they arrive. 

If you are ill, please call ahead to your health care provider’s office prior to arriving.

Our hospitals and clinical locations have taken additional measures to ensure safety for all patients, visitors and staff during the COVID-19 outbreak. If you have specific questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to ask your health care provider prior to your visit.

Q: What is telehealth virtual visits?

A: Telehealth virtual visits allow patients and/or their guardians to interact and consult with their health care provider, who can review the patient’s medical information for the purposes of diagnosis and treatment, go over test results, fulfill prescriptions, and provide patient education.

Virtual visits are being used both for virtual COVID-19 evaluations and to support non–COVID-19–related health care remotely to minimize patient and family exposure and support social distancing.

To get started with telehealth, talk with your provider’s office to see if you are a good candidate for virtual care.

To learn more about this service, read the latest story.

Q: Where can I find more information about COVID-19 Pediatric Drive-Through Testing?

A: A member of your care team will call you to schedule an appointment for drive-through testing. During that phone call, you will be told where to go for the test. Learn more about COVID-19 Pediatric Drive-Through Testing.


The CDC website has additional FAQs on the topics of TravelPregnant Women and COVID-19, and COVID-19 and animals.

This page was adapted from CDC.gov, last accessed July 24, 2020. www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/index.html

Prevent the spread

Standford Medicine Global COVID-19 PreventionPlay

Watch this short animated video that illustrates how COVID-19 is transmitted among people, and help us do our part to prevent the spread.

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Limiting Visitors to the Hospital

Making sure everyone is healthy is important for you and your child, and all of our patients. One way we are doing this is by limiting the number of people in the hospital. As a reminder, anyone with a cough, runny nose, fever, or sore throat should not come to the hospital.

Current visitor guidelines

  • A total of 2 people (caregivers) will be allowed to enter the hospital and be at the bedside during your hospital stay.
  • One partner or birth support person will be allowed with each patient on the Labor and Delivery, Antepartum and Maternity Units.
  • Any person visiting the hospital must be 18 years or older.
  • No entry allowed for common space use (cafeteria, gift shop, pass through to Stanford Hospital, etc.)

Outpatient (Clinics, Diagnostic Areas, Treatment Center and Infusion Center)

One (1) person may be allowed to accompany a patient
• No exceptions to visitor/caregiver guidelines will be made for PUI or COVID-19+ patients
• Any caregiver with a fever, cough, sore throat, congestion or any other symptom of COVID-19 will NOT be allowed to enter the hospital or clinic.
Note: OB Clinic and Perinatal Diagnostic Center (PDC): NO visitors or support people are allowed to accompany a patient to these areas of the hospital/clinic.

Ways for patients to stay in touch with friends and family:

  1. Make a phone call or video chat the child/family 
  2. Text, send an e-mail or greeting card.
  3. Send balloons (mylar type only) or other gifts by ordering from the gift shop (650) 497-8596 during shop hours
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