Key points

  • Symptoms of the virus (fever, coughing and difficulty breathing) are very similar to a range of other illnesses, including the flu. Having these symptoms doesn’t necessarily mean you have COVID-19.
  • Staying at home and good hygiene practices (washing your hands with soap and coughing/sneezing into a tissue or your elbow) are the best defence for you and your family.  
  • Always seek urgent medical care if your child is showing signs of being very unwell or has difficulty breathing. Make sure you call the doctor before you visit to ensure the virus doesn’t spread to other people.
  • Info in NZ Sign Language: If you're deaf or hearing impaired, the Ministry of Health and Deaf Aotearoa have some great videos in NZSL that you might find useful alongside the information on this page. 

What is novel coronavirus (COVID-19)?

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses which include the common cold, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS).

In January 2020, officials identified a new coronavirus called novel coronavirus or COVID-19.

Tens of thousands of people have been infected with COVID-19 since the outbreak began.

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

Health officials don't yet know how long symptoms take to show after a person has been infected. World Health Organization (WHO) assessments suggest that it is two to 10 days.

Symptoms of COVID-19 are similar to a range of other illnesses such as the flu. Having these symptoms does not necessarily mean that your child or you have coronavirus. Symptoms of the new virus include:

  • fever
  • cough
  • difficulty breathing.

Difficulty breathing can be a sign of pneumonia. Urgently seek medical attention if your child (PlunketLine is available 24/7 on 0800 933 922) or member of your family is struggling to breathe.

Should I go to the doctor if myself, or my child has COVID-19 symptoms?

If you think that you or your child has COVID-19 or has been exposed, call Healthline (for free) on 0800 358 5453 if you or your child has symptoms. 

How is COVID-19 spread?

How to protect yourself against COVID-19, WHO

Tips for reducing the spread of COVID-19

There are simple steps to take to help reduce the risk of COVID-19 spreading through your family and community:

  • Wash your hands
  • Cough or sneeze into your elbow
  • Stay home
  • Physical distancing - if you're outside your home, or you're sick, stay two-metres from other people at all times
  • Clean and disinfect regularly touched surfaces (bench tops, door handles)

How serious is COVID-19?

Most people with this virus are not severely ill.

People of all ages are being infected, but older people and those with medical conditions seem most likely to get seriously ill.

What should I do if my child is sick now?

If your child or you have a fever, cough or difficulty breathing please telephone Healthline (for free) on 0800 358 5453.

Is there a vaccine to protect against COVID-19?

No, this is a new virus, so there is currently no vaccine to protect against this disease.

What can I do if we have children and have to self-isolate?

The Ministry of Health has produced this fact sheet for self-solation with children here.

Also check out Plunket's Facebook chats and information for parents here.

What do I do if I have COVID-19 but I'm breastfeeding/formula feeding?

There is currently no clinical evidence to suggest that the virus can be transmitted through breast milk. Infection can be spread to your baby in the same way as to anyone in close contact with you. When a person who has COVID-19 coughs, sneezes or talks, they may spread droplets containing the virus.

The benefits of breastfeeding outweigh any potential risks of transmission of the virus through breast milk or by being in close contact with your child, however, this will be an individual decision and can be discussed with whānau, midwife, well child nurse or family doctor by telephone or email.

If you are breastfeeding or formula feeding, take precautions to limit the potential spread of COVID-19 to your baby by:

  • washing your hands before touching your baby, breast pump or bottles
  • avoiding coughing or sneezing on your baby while feeding at the breast
  • if you do cough or sneezes cover your mouth and nose with tissues or your elbow, put your used tissue in the rubbish bin or in a plastic bag and wash and dry your hands with soap and water or hand sanitiser
  • cleaning any breast pump, bottles, and teats as recommended by the manufacturer after each use
  • consider asking someone who is well to feed your expressed milk or formula to your baby
  • where possible, contact a friend, family member or delivery services to get your baby's formula and feeding equipment from your normal supplier.

If you are feeding with formula, sterilise the equipment carefully before each use. You should not share teats or bottles with someone else.

I’m a parent/caregiver and I’m feeling really worried about COVID-19

It’s very normal to feel worried, especially in such uncertain times. We recommend staying in touch with friends and family, and trying to stay positive and have fun with your children while we're in lockdown.

Remember that physical distancing doesn't mean stopping your social connection. It just means doing it in different ways - like text or video chat. 

If you are worried about your child, please give Plunket’s lovely registered nurses a call on 0800 933 922.

PlunketLine is a free, 24/7 service and we’re here to support you with kindness and specialist advice you can trust.

Need free support or advice?

Call PlunketLine 24/7 on 0800 933 922