The coronavirus (Covid-19) has caused major changes in our daily lives. It has stopped us going to school or work, it has stopped us spending time with friends and family, and it has caused pain and grief as loved ones become seriously ill or die from the virus.
Feeling anxious, frustrated or alone are normal reactions to a difficult and stressful time. We see the news or stories on social media which can be desperately sad or scary. But not all we read and see is necessarily true. The coronavirus is attracting myths, hearsay and lies, and that is why it is so important to have information from sources you can trust.
On this page you will find a wealth of information to help you have a better understanding of the coronavirus and what is being done to help people stay safe and healthy. Click on the tabs below for a more in depth look into each topic as well as links to more detailed advice for trusted organisations.
Getting NHS help during coronavirus outbreak
Many health services across Essex and nationwide have reported fewer people coming to seek help for their non-Covid health concerns. It's really important to realise that not every illness your child has is due to Covid-19. All the 'normal' infections that can make children and babies really unwell still remain and there is a major risk that parents may delay bringing their child to the attention of a healthcare professionals even if they are unwell.
We know that people are worried at the moment at either being a burden on the NHS or about catching coronavirus, but please do seek help if you and your family need it.
Healthcare services are still being provided virtually either online or by phone, from your GP and Practice Nurse appointments to mental health support, so please do still get in contact. If you and your child are asked to attend an appointment in person, it is because it is necessary for their health.
The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health has also put together a quick guide to help you know what to do in different medical situations. If you are unsure whether your needs are urgent, you can visit NHS 111 online for medical support and advice. If you don’t have internet access, you can call 111 instead.
For any serious conditions like meningitis, sepsis or broken bones, continue to call 999 straight away. Time is of the essence for these conditions and delay could have tragic consequences. Hospitals have taken all measures necessary to ensure people can access emergency care safely.
Advice for parents about Covid-19
Covid-19 is a mild illness for most children. Less than 2 in every 100 cases diagnosed in China have been in children and infection appears to be milder in children than it is in adults, although we do not yet understand exactly why this is the case.
If you or your child have symptoms of Covid-19, it is important to stay at home so you do not risk passing the virus on to somebody else that may have a more severe illness. The symptoms to look out for are a persistent new cough, a high temperature, or a loss of smell or taste. If someone in your family has any of these symptoms, they must self-isolate for at least seven days. Everyone else in your household must also self-isolate for at least 14 days. The whole household should not leave the house for any reason, this includes going to see your GP or food shopping. An exception would be to attend a booked coronavirus test appointment.
If you or your child's illness worsens, seek medical help by:
- If it’s not an emergency, contact NHS 111 online. If you have no internet access, you should call NHS 111.
- If it is an emergency and you need to call an ambulance, dial 999 and inform the call handler or operator that you or your relative have coronavirus (Covid-19) symptoms.
Below are some links that provide more detailed information and advice to help families during the coronavirus outbreak. There's general guidance on what people should and should not be doing at this time as well as more specific advice on taking care of your family's health and wellbeing. Remember that the NHS is still here to help and please do contact your doctor, nurse or any other health professional if you need help and advice.
- Gov.uk/coronavirus - a general Covid-19 guidance and support page with information on protecting yourself, testing,financial support, education and childcare and many other topics.
- Gov.uk page on social distancing - a page with guidance on social distancing and staying at home.
- Staying safe outside your home - a gov.uk page on the current guidance for staying safe outside of your home.
- Confidential phoneline for family support - Family Lives has a phone-line for parents who are finding it hard. You can call on 0808 800 2222. See the weblink to find out what times the line is open.
- Child Line Coronavirus Advice - the organisation has advice on things like symptoms of the virus and what you can do to keep occupied while staying at home.
- Change 4 Life - Includes a selection of indoor activities to help keep active while staying at home.
- Stay Safe at Home during Covid-19 - an Essex-wide campaign raising awareness of some of the risks at home such as scams and domestic abuse.
- Essex Coronavirus Action - local Facebook group that can provide support with essentials for people who are self isolating and don't have anyone else who can help them.
Gov.uk website education resources page - a list of online resources to help children of all ages to keep learning while at home.
Gov.uk Department of Education page - contains information on schools and how coronavirus is affecting them.
- Coronavirus (COVID-19) and domestic abuse - support for victims of domestic abuse from the Gov.uk website.
- Save Lives - a collection of resources to help support people experiencing domestic abuse; their family, friends or neighbours; and professionals.
- COMPASS - a support service for people experiencing domestic abuse in Essex.
- SETDAB - a website providing advice and information on services for those affected by domestic abuse.
Talking to children about Covid-19
- Children's Commissioner Coronavirus Guide - a children's guide to the coronavirus.
- NSPCC - a guide on talking about feelings about Covid-19 with children.
- Hello my name is coronavirus – online document explaining what coronavirus is in an easy to understand way. Also see the below video on explaining coronavirus to children.
- Coronavirus: a book for children - a book for children to help explain what the coronavirus is. Illustrated by Axel Scheffler (Gruffalo, Room on the Broom, Stickman).
- Easy read: what is coronavirus (COVID-19) - the Mencap website has a selection of resources to help explain what coronavirus is to people with special educational needs.
Support for young people's health and wellbeing
General Covid-19 Advice and Support
- riseabove.org.uk - top tips for staying healthy during the pandemic.
- Young Minds - tips, advice and guidance on getting support for young people's mental health during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
- ukyouth.org - some advice for children and young people on topics such as education, working and wellbeing.
Support with Emotional Wellbeing and Thoughts
- NHS Every Mind Matters - support and advice on looking after your mental health, including on looking after children and working from home.
- Gov.uk guidance on mental health - provides advice on how to look after your mental health.
- Gov.uk guidance on supporting children and young people's mental health - provides advice for parents and carers on how to look after a child's mental health.
- Mind Ed - free educational resource on children and young people's mental health for all adults.
- Emerging Minds - advice for parents, carers and professionals on supporting children and young people's wellbeing.
- Anna Freud Centre - has support for young children, young people and parents on how to take care of their wellbeing during the outbreak, including handy factsheets.
Advice for schools, colleges and teachers
- Mental health and wellbeing in primary schools Preparing for recovery: Self-review and signposting tool
- Mental health and wellbeing in secondary schools and colleges Preparing for recovery: Self-review and signposting tool
Both tools above have been developed by the National Children’s Bureau in consultation with Department of Education and are designed for school senior leadership teams. They are intended to support schools in their roles in prioritising pupils' wellbeing by promoting children and young people's emotional wellbeing.
- Emotional Wellbeing and Mental Health Service - provides advice and support to children and young people who need support with their emotions or mental health.
- Mid and North Essex Mind - a local charity that helps residents with mental health support.
- Kids Inspire - a local charity helping disadvantaged young people turn their lives around
- Parents 1st - provides support for parents during pregnancy, birth, and the transition period of becoming a parent
- Kooth online - a free online community for mental wellbeing and support.
- Big White Wall - online community support for mental wellbeing that includes self-guided courses and access to health professionals.
For more information about mental health services in mid Essex, please visit our Mental Health Services webpage. You will find further information on services for children as well as services for adults such as our talking therapies service, Health in Mind and online support via Silvercloud, which can support you with your own thoughts, feelings and anxieties.
Family bereavement and coronavirus
Talking about death can be a very difficult conversation to have with a child. There are a number of resources and organisations that help you have that conversation as well as provide additional support for children dealing with bereavement. Locally Havens Hospice has launched a phone line to help children and adults talk about their experiences. See more about this service below.
- National Bereavement Network - family bereavement support, keeping in touch guide.
- Winston's Wish - advice and guidance for children and young people coping with bereavement during Covid-19.
- Family bereavement Freephone National Helpline 08088 020 021 offers therapeutic advice following a bereavement for children and young people, their families and carers or professionals.
- Child Bereavement UK - charity that provides support for children and young people, and their parents and families following a bereavement (free helpline and online chat available).
Special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) and coronavirus
The changes to everyday life at the moment are very difficult for all parents. In addition to the anxieties around the virus itself, parents are understandably worried about their child's education, their overall health, and the mental and emotional challenges that the virus and the global pandemic raise.
Parents of children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) may be facing additional concerns based on your child's needs. Health services across Thurrock and the wider region are committed to supporting your family’s needs. The specialist services important to the care of children with SEND needs remain open and your GP practice is continuing with learning disabilities health checks (contact your practice for more information).
Are health services still available to my child during the Covid-19 Pandemic?
Health services for children are now beginning to offer routine appointments and services can be contacted through the normal contact numbers.
Many health consultations and appointments have also changed. Video calls and phone calls mean that you can speak with a health professional without needing to attend in person. In some cases, it will be best for the care of your child for them to attend a face-to-face appointment. Rest assured that every action will be taken to ensure your visit is completely safe.
How will the outbreak affect my child’s education, health and care plan?
During the height of the pandemic, some elements of your child’s education, health and care could not be met and your child’s team would have been in contact to discuss what care could be safely carried out. As children return to school staff will be speaking to parents and school staff on how best to meet your child’s needs. As parents you will be actively involved within the decisions and discussions around your child as soon as possible. We appreciate any delay may be frustrating and we are all working to ensure that the care your child receives returns to that set out in their plans.
As we return to the new academic year, the expectations is that all elements of your child’s Education, health and care plan will be met and all relaxations to The Children and Act have not stopped and services are required to meet timeframes and service provision.
As children return to school:
As all children return to school in September 2020, health services will be available including your school nursing team through the normal contact numbers. For a small number of children they may still be advised to stay at home and if this concerns your child please be assured all health services are available to you. As mentioned some appointments will continue via video and telephone call and health staff will be working closely with schools to provide care to your child.
Within England the ‘shielding’ guidance changed and the need for shielding stopped for the majority of people.
Children and young people who were advised to shield at the beginning of the pandemic will now have their clinical notes reviewed and will be contacted by the GP, Community Paediatrician or hospital specialist. They will discuss if your child should remain shielding or if they advise to stop shielding and your child can return to school. They will offer advice and support on how to continue to stay safe during the pandemic.
For most children that were shielding they can now return to school and follow general advice on how to stay well during the pandemic, however for some children they remain at greater risk of a severe infection. These children will continue to be advised to shield and continue to take extra precautions during the containment period of the virus. Your child’s specialist clinician will advise if your child needs to continue to shield.
If you are not sure whether your child falls into this category or you have not heard from your health professional regarding your child’s shielding please contact their GP, consultant or specialist nurse who should be able to offer advice. For more guidance on shielding groups, please visit the Gov.uk website.
Below we have links to some useful websites that provide additional information on topics such as education, wellbeing and explaining coronavirus to someone with special educational needs and disabilities. You can also find some further links to SEND support in mid Essex on our dedicated Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) webpage.
- Special Needs and Parents (SNAP) - an Essex charity for families with children and young people who have any special need or disability.
- SNAP also hosts specialist talks for parents on a variety of topics. These are delivered virtually via the online programme, Zoom. Find out more about what is available and how to access these talks on the Specialist Talks webpage.
- Supporting children with special educational needs and disabilities - the NSPCC website has a guide for parents of children with special educational needs and disabilities. It covers topics like school closures, creating a daily routine and how to help children express their feelings and cope with anxiety. You will also find information specifically for parents and carers of SEND children.
- Help children with SEND continue their education during coronavirus (COVID-19) - the gov.uk website has information on educational support while looking after your children at home.
- Getting NHS help when you need it during the coronavirus outbreak - a easy-read guide from NHS England on how to use NHS services during the pandemic.
- Easy read: what is coronavirus (COVID-19) - the Mencap website has a selection of resources to help explain what coronavirus is to people with special educational needs.
- Why we wear PPE - Mencap has also provided an easy read guide on personal protective equipment and why some people are wearing it.
Keeping up to date with the situation
The situation continues to change day by day. For the most up to date information on the situation, including advice about school attendance, need for testing or attendance to hospital for assessment, visit the gov.uk/coronavirus webpage.
For more local updates, the Essex County Council website has information on the latest advice around coronavirus.
For the latest information on your school and how it is responding to coronavirus, please visit the website of the school that your child attends.
Protecting against infection and shielding the most vulnerable
Covid-19 is caused by an infectious virus called coronavirus. Most children are not seriously affected by Covid-19 but that does not mean they are not carrying the virus. It’s important that children of all ages follow the same guidance that adults are following to ensure that they do not get the virus and also do not pass it on. The latest guidance from the Government can be found on their staying safe outside your home webpage.
Coronavirus spreads in small droplets of water. This means that you would need to be in close contact with someone with the virus to become infected. That’s why the advice is to keep 2 metres away from other people who don’t live in your home.
If it is not possible to stay 2 metres or more away from other people, it is advised to wear a face covering. In some locations such as on public transport; enclosed spaces such as shops, supermarkets and banks as well as many healthcare settings, it is compulsory to wear a face covering for anyone over the age of 11. Children under the age of 3 should not wear a covering nor those who may find it difficult to manage them correctly and safely (for example, primary age children unassisted, or those with respiratory conditions).
However, droplets containing coronavirus can survive for hours on hard surfaces like door handles and handrails. This means that children are much more likely to get the virus on their hands first. Children and people in general often touch their face where it is much easier for the virus to enter the body through the mouth, nose or eyes.
Washing our hands regularly and thoroughly is the best way to remove the virus from our hands. Aim to scrub them for at least 20 seconds. If you are unable to wash them, use a hand sanitiser. In addition, trying to stop your child touching their face will also reduce the risk of them getting a virus.
Children at greater risk
Some children are at greater risk of a severe infection. These children full into the "shielding" category and need to take extra precautions while the virus is spreading such as staying at home as much as possible. The shielding group includes children that:
- Have received an organ transplant
- Are being treated for specific cancers (leukaemia and lymphoma) or have had a bone marrow transplant in the last 6 months or those on specific forms of immunotherapy;
- Have cystic fibrosis or severe asthma
- Have a rare genetic condition that significantly increases their risk of infection or those on immunosuppressive therapy;
If you are not sure whether your child falls into this category, contact their GP, consultant or specialist nurse who should be able to offer advice.
For more guidance on shielding groups, please visit the Gov.uk website.
Making the process of testing less scary for children
Testing for coronavirus is taking place across the UK. Children may find testing strange, confusing or even scary. Below is some text that you might find useful when explaining why your child needs to be tested.
- Coronavirus is a tiny germ, or “virus” that is so small that you can’t see it. The virus makes some people feel unwell. We don’t think it will make you feel very unwell but we need to know if you have it so we can stop other people from getting ill.
- The people doing the test will look very strange in their funny mask and clothes, but they are really very nice and are just trying to stop people from feeling unwell.
- They will place a small tube or cotton bud into your nose or throat. It might feel strange, but it will only take a few seconds. And that is it!
Mencap has also provided an easy read guide on personal protective equipment (PPE) which has images which can help with understanding. The guide explains what PPE is and why some people are wearing it: Why we wear PPE.
Images on this page originate from freepik.com.