What is COVID-19?
COVID-19 is an illness caused by a new coronavirus that emerged in late 2019. This virus impacts people of all ages, however symptoms can vary widely and are similar to those of other common illnesses.
What are the symptoms of COVID-19?
People with COVID-19 may have mild, moderate, or severe symptoms. A person with any of these symptoms could have COVID-19:
Why are there different variants of COVID-19?
Viruses constantly mutate and change. Some changes are irrelevant, while other changes make the virus weaker. However, some changes make the virus easier to spread or potentially more potent, causing more severe disease. The CDC and other infectious disease specialists closely monitor the emergence of variants such as Delta and Omicron and alert the public if a variant poses a significant risk to public health and can be easily transmitted from person to person.
What is the treatment for COVID-19?
COVID-19 treatment depends on the severity of illness and an individual’s risk.
Medications are now available to reduce the risk of being hospitalized or dying from the disease. However, these treatments must be prescribed by a health care provider and started within days of the first symptoms. If you or your child has symptoms of COVID-19, it is very important to contact your health care provider as soon as possible to find out if treatment is recommended for your child.
What is long COVID?
Long COVID, also known as post-COVID syndrome, is the presence of one or more lingering symptoms that remain long after a child or teenager has recovered from COVID-19. Learn more about how we treat long COVID in our Post-COVID Clinic.
What should I know about COVID-19 testing?
Science for Kids: Nasal Swab
Where do I go to get my child tested for COVID-19 if they have symptoms
COVID-19 testing is available at many locations around Massachusetts, including many Boston Children’s affiliated physician practices. The Massachusetts Department of Public Health maintains a searchable, up-to-date list of testing locations throughout the state.
In addition, self-tests for COVID-19, available at many pharmacies, offer rapid results and can be taken at home or anywhere, regardless of whether or not you have symptoms. The CDC recommends taking a self-test when you have COVID-19 symptoms, were exposed to someone with COVID-19, or are going to an indoor event or gathering.
What’s it like to get a nasal swab?
If your child is scheduled for a nasal swab, this story will help them know what to expect.
My Hospital Test: Nasal Swab
Coronavirus | Vaccine Information
COVID-19 vaccination information for kids & teens
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has authorized the emergency use of the Pfizer BioNtech and Moderna vaccines to prevent COVID-19 in children 6 months and older. The FDA has authorized the Johnson & Johnson vaccine for people 18 and older. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) prefers that people get either a Moderna or Pfizer vaccination as a booster shot and recommend a Johnson & Johnson vaccine only in certain situations.
Vaccine dosages and inoculation cycles vary:
- The Pfizer vaccine is given in three doses to children between 6 months and 4 years old. Children 5 years and older receive the Pfizer vaccine in two doses.
- The Moderna vaccine is given in two doses to children between 6 months and 17 years old. A third dose is authorized for children with certain conditions that weaken their immune systems.
- The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is given in one dose.
Who is eligible for a COVID-19 booster?
COVID-19 vaccine boosters can enhance or restore protection that might have diminished over time after your primary series vaccination.
- People ages 5 years and older should get one booster shot after completing their COVID-19 vaccine primary series.
- Two booster shots are recommended for adults ages 50 years and older, and people ages 12 years and older who are moderately or severely immunocompromised.
Getting your child vaccinated
While we are eager to be a vaccine resource, we encourage you to take advantage of any opportunity to schedule a vaccination appointment. It is possible that are sites closer to your home that offer the vaccine too. You can find information about state and local health care organizations offering the vaccine by visiting mass.gov/vaccine.
Because every state is a little different, we encourage Boston Children’s families who live outside of Massachusetts to get vaccinated in your home state as soon as you or your child is eligible. You can search for vaccines near you on the vaccine.gov website.
How do I schedule my child for a vaccine at Boston Children’s?
Please register for the Boston Children’s patient portal to self-schedule an appointment or call 617-919-7102 to connect with a member of our team to schedule a vaccine. Phone lines will be open Monday through Friday between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m.
Is there transportation assistance available for COVID-19 vaccine appointments?
Yes. We will ask you if you need transportation assistance when we contact you to schedule your child’s vaccine.
If your child has MassHealth coverage or the Health Safety Net, including MassHealth Limited, Children’s Medical Security Program (CMSP) and MassHealth Family Assistance (FA), you can arrange free transportation to your child’s COVID-19 vaccine appointment by calling 800-841-2900 (TTY: 800-497-4648). For more information, visit the MassHealth website.
Boston Children’s is providing free parking for all vaccine appointments.
Educating kids about the COVID-19 vaccine
Frequently asked questions about the COVID-19 vaccines
Yes. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines offer the most protection after the recommended number of doses. (The Pfizer vaccine is given in three doses to children between 6 months and 4 years old.)
Yes. Your child should get the vaccine even if they have already had COVID-19. Even though having had COVID-19 may provide some protection from getting sick again, that protection fades over time.
No. People with COVID-19 can get the vaccine after they are feeling better and meet the criteria to stop isolation. If your child had COVID-19 and had monoclonal antibody or convalescent plasma treatments, they should wait 90 days to get the vaccine. Talk with your child’s doctor about when your child should receive the vaccine.
There is no evidence that the COVID-19 vaccine affects future fertility.
The data we have seen make us confident that the vaccines authorized by the FDA are safe for the ages included in the authorization.
Most new medicines and vaccines are studied in adults first, so the first authorization for the vaccines doesn’t include younger children. Companies are studying the vaccines in younger children, and there will be more information coming on their safety and effectiveness in children. Very rarely, some people have had allergic reactions to the vaccines, which can be treated.
Some people have symptoms, like a sore arm and redness around the injection site, mild-to-moderate headache, muscle aches or fatigue. Some people a low fever after the vaccine and some have nausea and vomiting.
The most common side effects in infants between 6 and 36 months included irritability, sleepiness, and loss of appetite.
These symptoms are normal and usually don’t last more than a day or two. If your child had an allergic reaction after the first dose, please talk to your doctor before getting the second dose.
No. The reason that the COVID-19 vaccines were able to be made so quickly is that the government provided extra money to support the research and production. The quality of the trials and the review of the safety and effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccines was not different from normal processes for other vaccine approvals.
The number and timing of dozes depends on your child’s age and which vaccine they receive:
- The Pfizer vaccine is given in two doses to children 5 years and older, with the second dose coming three weeks after the first. Children younger than 5 receive the Pfizer vaccine in three doses.
- The Moderna vaccine is given in two doses to children 6 months and older, with the second dose coming four weeks after the first.
- The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is given in one dose to people 18 and older.
Eventually, there will probably be other vaccines available with different schedules.
Many children of different sizes participated in the Pfizer and Moderna clinical trials for children. The FDA reviewed these children’s immune responses in several age ranges and determined that the immune responses to the lower doses recommended for infants and children was very similar to what’s been achieved in older individuals with higher doses of the vaccine.
Families should take reassurance that their older children who might be large for their age are not getting shortchanged in terms of immune response.
Studies of the COVID-19 vaccine have used the same dose and regimen for 12- to 15-year-olds that was used in adults and showed excellent immune responses. Dr. Kristin Moffitt explains.
Vaccine doses purchased with U.S. taxpayer dollars are provided to Americans at no cost. However, some vaccination providers may charge an administration fee.
You’ve had the COVID-19 vaccine. What now?
Coronavirus | Your Visit
What to expect when you come to Boston Children's
Our top priority remains the safety of our patients, families, and staff.
To most effectively provide care while limiting wait times, all visits are currently by appointment only. We cannot accept walk-in visits, even for blood draws and radiology. Please contact your provider for scheduling information.
Prepare for your visit to Boston Children's
Things may look a little different at Boston Children’s. We follow strict infection control recommendations, and to further reduce the risk of COVID-19, we have added some additional measures to keep our environment as safe for you and your family as possible.
When you and your child arrive at Boston Children’s for a visit, one of our staff members will ask you a few questions, including whether you have had symptoms or been exposed to anyone with COVID-19. Your child’s clinical team will tell you in advance whether or not they should be tested for COVID-19 prior to visiting the hospital.
- My Hospital Story: Preparing for a Visit at Boston Children’s Hospital
- My Hospital Story: Preparing for a Visit at Boston Children’s at Waltham
- Preparing for Your Hospital Visit During COVID-19
For the safety of all, we must ask that any visitor who has confirmed COVID-19 stay home and NOT visit Boston Children’s. Please isolate at home, per the state guidelines, and consider making your visit virtual. Until further notice, only two adult caregivers may visit or accompany a patient at one time. Read our visitor policy.
Learn what changes to expect when you visit us for your scheduled outpatient appointment.
In-patient room occupancy
You or your child may be asked to share a double occupancy room with another patient family during your stay. Learn how we are taking increased precautions to ensure patient, family, and staff safety and reduce the spread of COVID-19.
Please wear face coverings as you walk from your car to our facility. When you arrive, we will give you and your child hospital-grade face masks to wear inside the building. You must wear the hospital-issued mask at all times while you are in our facilities, other than when eating or drinking. Please make sure your mask covers your mouth and nose, avoid touching your face or your mask and be sure to wash your hands often.
Please maintain six feet of space between you and other patients, families, and staff as much as possible in all common areas of the lobby, waiting room, and while registering at the front desk. After your initial screening, we recommend that only one adult accompany the patient to the site and enter the exam area. Please reduce your time spent at the hospital by using the MyChildren’s Patient Portal to pre-check in and manage payments.
Our cleaning practices are incorporate recommended guidelines by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). All surfaces are being regularly cleaned and we continue to provide hand sanitizer throughout our locations.
Frequently asked questions (FAQs)
If your child needs to go to the hospital for any reason, some preparation can help make the trip less stressful for you and your child, and everyone else. This planning packet can help you prepare.
The CDC recommends that children over age 2 wear a face-covering in public. We understand that wearing a mask is especially hard for some children. If you think your child is going to have a problem wearing a mask, let your provider know in advance so you can make a plan together.
We want to make sure that you have your child's routine medications, particularly respiratory medications, on hand at this time. If you have any questions or concerns, please reach out to the clinic.
At this time, we cannot offer child care and ask that you make arrangements for child care outside of the hospital.
Coronavirus | Visitor Policy
Two visitors of any age will be allowed onsite with a patient. This applies to an outpatient appointment or a child who is staying overnight and has been assigned to a single room.
If your child is staying overnight and has been assigned to a double room, only one visitor over the age of 18 will be allowed to stay overnight. Two visitors of any age are permitted to visit at the bedside during the day.
All visitors are required to wear a mask unless they have a medical exemption or are under the age of 2. If you have any questions, please call our COVID-19 hotline at 855-281-5730 or 617-355-4200.
Anyone with symptoms of COVID-19 is not permitted in the hospital and is advised to seek medical care. You can visit the hospital again when you are symptom-free.
If you have a family member or friend at Boston Children’s and cannot visit in person, please consider other options for reaching out to let them know you care.
- contact them via Zoom, Facetime, or Skype
- send an email or card
- call their room directly through Patient Information at 617-355-6201
We’re grateful for your help as we work together to safeguard all our patients, families, and staff.
Coronavirus | Parenting Resources
Parenting during the coronavirus pandemic
Insight, advice, and tips for talking about COVID-19 with your kids and helping your whole family cope during these uncertain times.
Talking about COVID-19 with your kids
Get tips to help you have conversations with your kids, from the experts on the COVID-19 Resilience Team in Boston Children's Department of Psychiatry.Read more
COVID-19: What we know and how to cope with an uncertain future
The uncertainty of life during COVID-19 has got many people feeling down. Our expert, psychologist Erica Lee, offers coping skills.Read more
Teens and young adults
Testing the COVID-19 vaccines in teens: Is it safe?
Some drug companies are starting to test COVID-19 vaccines on teens. Our expert answers questions about the safety of doing so.Read more
Teens and young adults: Is it time for a 'COVID-19 talk' with your friends?
If you're planning to get together with friends during the pandemic, use these tips to help make you feel comfortable.
Behind the mask: How to prevent and treat mask-related acne in children and teens
Wearing a mask is very effective at helping prevent the spread of COVID-19, but it can also trigger a host of skin problems, including acne.
Helping athletes cope with the emotional rollercoaster of COVID-19
Mental skills to help athletes cope with the emotional ups and downs of COVID-19, and possibly come out stronger.
Coronavirus | Community Resources
Boston Children’s Hospital is committed to improving the health and well-being of children and families in our community. We know that the COVID-19 crisis has caused parents and caregivers to face unprecedented levels of stress in their everyday lives. Many families continue to struggle with food insecurity, are worried about paying their rent or mortgage, have concerns about sending their child to daycare, or how to work with a child learning from home.
Food access and resources
Unfortunately, the COVID pandemic has led to more food insecurity for families throughout Massachusetts. It also has disproportionately impacted those living in low-income areas and the Black and Latino communities.
Boston Children’s is supporting its community partners and Boston community health centers to help families with food access, as well as with other needs around rental and utility assistance, and other basic household supplies.
Massachusetts state resources
- Project Bread FoodSource Hotline
- Project Bread and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE)
- Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA)
- Women, Infants, and Children Nutrition Program (WIC)
Greater Boston resources
Resources in Western Massachusetts
Childcare and school resources
Boston Children’s Office of Community Health launched the Boston Childcare Support Initiative in July 2020 to support childcare providers in the communities most impacted by COVID. In total, 130 childcare providers have received grants. The grant amounts ranged from $3,500 to $10,000. These funds will be used by childcare providers to follow public health guidelines, adapt physical spaces, and cover increased costs for staff, overhead, personal protective equipment, and cleaning supplies.
We hope these funds will help childcare providers recover, as they are essential small businesses, providing a critical service for many families in our community. Read more about how Boston Children’s is supporting childcare providers during COVID.
Housing resources in Massachusetts
Financial assistance for broadband internet
The Federal Communications Commission has launched a temporary program to help families and households struggling to afford Internet service during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Emergency Broadband Benefit provides a discount of up to $50 per month toward broadband service for eligible households and up to $75 per month for households on qualifying Tribal lands. Eligible households can also receive a one-time discount of up to $100 to purchase a laptop, desktop computer, or tablet from participating providers.
Eligible households can enroll through a participating broadband provider or directly with the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) using an online or mail in application.
You can learn more about the benefit, including eligibility and enrollment information, by visiting fcc.gov/broadbandbenefit, or by calling 833-511-0311.
Boston Children’s Hospital is committed to providing the highest quality of care under any circumstance. The COVID-19 outbreak has made it more important than ever for us to serve our communities through this unprecedented health crisis together. As the situation continues to evolve, our offices are tracking legislative and regulatory actions related to health care access, behavioral health, and community health. We also are in close contact with all of our partners including city agencies, community health centers, community-based organizations, and the Boston Public Schools to assess the needs, resources, and gaps in services so that Boston Children's can best assist and support our community as needed.
If you have questions or concerns about evolving government policies, please reach out to the Office of Government Relations at CAN@childrens.harvard.edu and sign up for updates through the Children's Advocacy Network.
Coronavirus | Research
Boston Children’s remains at the forefront of research and innovation during the COVID-19 pandemic. Learn about our recent advances.
Previous COVID-19 or MIS-C does not protect kids from Omicron
Unvaccinated children and teens remain susceptible to the coronavirus, especially the Omicron variant, a national study finds.
COVID-19’s devastating toll: An increase in adolescent suicides and mental health crises
Two studies from Boston Children’s Hospital show that the trend of increased self-harm, suicidal ideation, and suicide attempts by teens became even more acute with the onset of COVID-19.
How COVID-19 triggers massive inflammation
The SARS-CoV-2 virus infects and kills critical immune cells in the blood and lungs, which set off powerful alarm bells as they die, according to a study.
A new symptom of COVID-19 in young children: Croup
During the Omicron surge, pediatricians and emergency departments began noticing a trend.
Pregnant mothers who get COVID-19 vaccines are also protecting their babies
Research co-led by Dr. Adrienne Randolph and the CDC estimates that vaccinating expectant moms reduced the chances their babies would be hospitalized with severe COVID-19 by 60 percent. Dr. Randolph explains in a Q&A.
Joining the fight against COVID: Women scientists at Boston Children’s are leading the way
When COVID-19 hit, these physician-scientists at Boston Children’s pivoted to studying the new coronavirus and its effects. Here, they share their paths and offer their advice on going into science.
A respiratory model of COVID-19, made from patients’ own cells
An engineered airway lining, made from patients’ own cells, is helping scientists understand how COVID-19 affects the respiratory tract, and can be used to test potential drugs.
COVID-19 vaccination in 12- to 18-year-olds: What does the science say?
Drs. Jane Newburger and Adrienne Randolph led three major studies that confirm vaccination’s protective benefits against both COVID-19 and MIS-C, which far outweigh rare side effects.
From our labs and clinics: The top 10 COVID-19 science stories of 2021
In 2021, researchers in all corners of Boston Children’s documented the clinical and immunological effects of COVID-19 and investigated new vaccines, diagnostics, and therapeutics.
Emerging protein-based COVID-19 vaccines could be game-changing
Two separate programs at Boston Children’s have developed protein-based COVID-19 vaccines that could be cheaper and easier to store than mRNA vaccines.
What makes the Delta variant of COVID-19 so contagious?
A structural analysis shows that Delta’s spike protein is especially good at fusion, allowing the virus to enter people’s cells very rapidly.
Unpacking the body’s interferon response to COVID-19
Are interferons helpful or harmful in COVID-19? This detailed study finds that it depends which interferons, when they’re produced, and where.
Rapid saliva test detects COVID-19 variants, at home or point of care
A low-cost test system, designed by Dr. Rose Lee and collaborators at the Wyss Institute, can give a readout from users’ spit within about an hour. The researchers hope to see it made available commercially.
Why do some people get severe COVID-19? The nose may know
The body’s first encounter with SARS-CoV-2 happens in the nose and throat. Responses in this early battleground help determine who will develop severe COVID-19 and who won’t.
Children with severe MIS-C do better with IVIG and steroids as initial therapy
Children given the combined treatment up front had better cardiovascular outcomes, finds a large study in The New England Journal of Medicine.
A coming wave of diabetes? The link with COVID-19
Many patients hospitalized with COVID-19 early in the pandemic developed hyperglycemia, or abnormally high blood sugar levels.
What drives severe lung inflammation in COVID-19?
A new study finds that excess Notch4 protein on regulatory T-cells leads to severe lung inflammation in COVID-19.
COVID-19 takes its toll on kids’ mental health
Child hospitalizations for self-harm and suicide attempts stayed steady in 2020, even as hospitalizations for almost all other reasons fell by about half compared with 2017-2019.
New findings show risk of bleeding and clotting after COVID-19
Some patients with congenital heart disease and COVID-19 develop a tendency for blood clots or bleeding issues, even if they had minor COVID-19 symptoms.
Sturdier spikes may explain SARS-CoV-2 variants’ faster spread
Why do the new COVID-19 variant strains spread so quickly? Research by Dr. Bing Chen finds that a mutation carried by the U.K., South Africa, and Brazil strains strengthens the coronavirus spike, rendering the virus better able to infect us.
Neurological involvement common in kids and teens with acute COVID-19 and MIS-C
About 1 in 5 hospitalized patients had neurologic involvement, mainly fatigue, headache, confusion, trouble walking/crawling, and loss of taste/smell. Of these, 1 in 8 developed serious conditions such as stroke, encephalitis, and Guillain-Barre syndrome.
If another pandemic hits, our online ‘footprints’ may help the experts
Looking back at the early days of COVID-19, two Boston Children’s studies demonstrate the potential predictive value of tracking the public’s digital activity (and that of healthcare professionals) in guessing the enemy’s next moves.
Is it MIS-C or severe COVID-19? An update on multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children
Funded by the CDC, this national study led by Dr. Adrienne Randolph compared and contrasted MIS-C with severe, acute COVID-19 in more than 1,100 children. While the two conditions share some features, there are also important differences.
How do patients with cystic fibrosis respond to COVID-19? An ‘airway in a dish’ may give answers
Few COVID-19 cases have been noted in patients with cystic fibrosis. Are they protected, or just practicing good social distancing? This study is using an airway lining, engineered from patient-derived cells, to model the effects of SARS-CoV-2 in CF and test possible treatments.
How does the placenta protect unborn babies from COVID-19?
Being pregnant is a risk factor for severe COVID-19 in women who are exposed. Yet only 5% of their babies are born with the infection, and nearly all are doing very well. Dr. Elizabeth Taglauer is studying the placenta to see how it may be protecting babies.
Capturing SARS-CoV-2’s shape-shifting spike protein
The SARS-CoV-2 spike protein, the one our antibodies target, has two forms. New work provides a snapshot of both, with implications for COVID vaccines.
Type III interferon in COVID-19: Protective or harmful?
At least two clinical trials are testing type III interferon in COVID-19 to fight viral infection and limit inflammatory damage. But a new study led by Dr. Ivan Zanoni at Boston Children’s warns that if it’s given later in the illness, it could increase susceptibility to bacterial “superinfection."
Disulfiram inhibits inflammatory gatekeeper protein: Could it be helpful in COVID-19?
Inflammation is the alarm system by which cells first respond to potential danger. But in excess, inflammation can be deadly.
Making an IMPACC: Examining immune responses in people hospitalized with COVID-19
Boston Children’s Hospital will play key roles in the IMPACC study examining the body's immune response over time in patients hospitalized with COVID-19.
How the new coronavirus gets into respiratory tissue — and may exploit one of our defenses
What makes SARS-CoV-2 such a threat? A study suggests that it may exploit one of our main defenses against viruses to infect three specific cell types.
Boston Children’s Hospital to lead nationwide study on COVID-19 in children
A nationwide CDC-funded study of COVID-19 in children is asking why children are largely spared, and why a tiny handful become very ill with the virus.
Coronavirus | Provider Resources
Returning to Boston Children’s: Information for Providers
While the changes brought on by COVID-19 will be with us for some time to come, one thing will never change: Our commitment to providing the highest quality care.
Primary care clinicians—often the first point of contact for patients and families concerned about their children—are the cornerstone of that commitment. From routine wellness checks and vaccinations to uncertain and potentially complex diagnoses, patients and families look to you for guidance and expertise. Your role in this pandemic and the future of pediatric healthcare delivery is essential. We value your partnership as we work together to keep children and families healthy.
While the road ahead is uncertain, we’re in this together. We look forward to continue working with you.
Referring patients to Boston Children’s during the COVID-19 pandemic
Boston Children’s continues to work closely with state and local officials to ensure the highest standard of safety for our patients, families, clinicians, and staff.
If you believe that a patient would benefit from receiving services from Boston Children’s, then you should refer that patient.
We are open and providing urgent, emergent, and medically necessary in-person care for patients during the COVID-19 outbreak. Depending on your patient’s needs, we may schedule a virtual visit. We have found virtual visits to be a safe and effective way to provide consultations and follow-up care that do not require providers to see patients face to face. In addition, our experts remain available for requests for second opinions. Please use standard operating procedures when referring patients to Boston Children’s. If you need more information regarding referring patients, please contact us for scheduling information.
Please be aware that all visits at Boston Children’s are currently by appointment only. We cannot accept walk-in visits, even for blood draws or radiology. Please contact us for scheduling information.
For the latest guidance on who should get tested, and whether or not testing will be covered by your insurance, please visit mass.gov for more information.
When does a patient require COVID-19 testing?
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts recommends testing for anyone with COVID-19 symptoms and any individual who has had close contact a person with confirmed COVID-19 infection.
A person is considered a close contact if:
- They were less than 6 feet from a person with confirmed COVID-19 for at least 10-15 minutes while the person was symptomatic or within the 48 hours before symptom onset
- They had direct contact with infectious secretions of a person with confirmed COVID-19 while not wearing recommended personal protective equipment (e.g., gown, gloves, facemask, eye protection)
- Testing sites in Massachusetts: COVID-19 Test Site Locator
- How to obtain a nasopharyngeal swab specimen: Video and step-by-step instructions
- How to update testing site information (for use by testing sites): Pediatric Testing Site Information
- My Hospital Testing Story: Drive-through swab, Boston Children’s Family Education
- My Hospital Testing Story: Throat swab, Boston Children’s Family Education
- My Hospital Testing Story: Nasal swab, Boston Children’s Family Education