Image: Getty Images, additional design by Tina Tiller
Image: Getty Images, additional design by Tina Tiller

SocietyMarch 1, 2022

What to do if your child tests positive for Covid-19

Image: Getty Images, additional design by Tina Tiller
Image: Getty Images, additional design by Tina Tiller

As omicron cases increase nationwide, so too does the number of tamariki who are testing positive for the virus. So what do parents need to know about caring for a child with Covid?

This post was first published on the author’s newsletter, Emily Writes Weekly.

Right now a lot of parents are worried about what they should be doing if their child gets Covid-19. With help from Dr Morgan Edwards, I’ve put together a guide on what to do to keep your tamaiti as comfortable as possible, how to protect others in your whare, and when to seek help.

What to do if your child gets Covid-19

First: Don’t panic. This isn’t your fault. Omicron is highly contagious.

If your child hasn’t been tested but they’re showing the following symptoms, stay home until they have been tested. Call the Covid-19 line on 0800 358 5453 to get a test.

Symptoms of Covid-19

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Trouble breathing
  • Gastrointestinal problems – sore tummy, nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea
  • Headaches
  • Muscle aches
  • Loss of taste and smell
  • Cold symptoms e.g sore throat and/or sneezing

Omicron is a weird virus – some tamariki will get very sick, some tamariki won’t have any symptoms at all. Some tamariki will have symptoms caused by inflammation throughout the body, sometimes several weeks after they contracted Covid-19. This is called multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MIS-C).

Symptoms of  MIS-C to be on the lookout for are ongoing fever PLUS more than one of the following: gastrointestinal issues, bloodshot eyes, dizziness or lightheadedness (signs of low blood pressure), skin rash. Contact your doctor or take them to a hospital or after-hours if your child is showing symptoms of MIS-C. If your child develops MIS-C they will be treated at the children’s hospital or in the ICU (intensive care unit).

Getting tested

If you think your child has symptoms of Covid-19, call your GP or the Covid line on 0800 358 5453. They will give you the most up-to-date information on testing.

Children should be tested if symptomatic and present with either typical or atypical symptoms. Contact your GP or your local testing centre to organise a PCR or RAT test. PCR tests will be used for people who need it most, and rapid antigen tests (RATs) are becoming more widely available, particularly in Auckland. When you go for a test, the testing centre will let you know which test — RATs or PCR is best for you. Positive RAT results do not need to be confirmed with a PCR test unless advised.

If your child tests positive for Covid-19

You must isolate with them for 10 days. You will be sent a link to complete an online form, which will help identify locations you have visited and people you have come into close contact with.

After 10 days, and if you are free of Covid-19 symptoms, you will be free to leave isolation. You do not need a negative test. Your 10 days do not reset if another member of your household tests positive for Covid-19 – but if you yourself test positive, your 10 days begin again.

How to isolate with your Covid-19-positive child

If possible, isolate your tamaiti with one parent or caregiver in a room away from the rest of the whānau. Wash your hands often. Wash doorknobs and surfaces. Wear an N95 mask as often as possible. Keep windows open to help with air flow and ventilation. If you’re pregnant, see if you can have another caregiver or parent look after your tamariki so you can limit contact.

If you have a high-risk adult or child in your house, consider having them isolated in another room, another area of the house, or at another family member or friend’s house. If this isn’t possible, they should always wear a mask and limit interactions as much as possible.

Keep other people and pets in the house away from your child as much as possible.

If you can, have your sick child use a different bathroom from others. If that isn’t possible, wipe down the bathroom often.

High-risk means those who are / have–

  • Unvaccinated
  • Immunocompromised either from disease or medications
  • Aged 65 or older
  • Chronic lung disease including moderate to severe uncontrolled asthma, BPD from prematurity, Interstitial lung disease, Pulmonary hypertension, COPD
  • Heart conditions
  • Chronic kidney or liver disease
  • Dementia
  • Diabetes
  • Down Syndrome
  • Severe mental illness

According to the Ministry of Health, people who smoke/vape, are pregnant, and/or are obese also face elevated risk if they contract Covid-19.

If a high-risk person in your whānau gets Covid-19, contact their specialist or hospital care team immediately.

If someone in your whānau gets Covid-19 despite taking precautions, remember, it’s very contagious. It’s not your fault. Be kind and gentle with yourself.

How to look after your Covid-19 positive child

You’ve got this. Stay calm. It’s likely your pēpē has been sick before, and you’ve been able to handle it. Covid-19 is no different.

  • Keep them well-hydrated.
  • Monitor nappies and wees to make sure they’re drinking enough.
  • Don’t worry if they’re not hungry.
  • Rest often. Use paracetamol for fevers. Some tamariki might struggle with oral paracetamol if they have a sore throat. Ask your pharmacist or doctor about rectal paracetamol.
  • Use nasal suction or steam.
  • Make sure they rest as much as possible – screen time is fine!
  • Keep a close eye on their breathing – if they have any pauses in breathing, seem to be straining to breathe or have irregular or fast breathing, or if they’re too out of breath to talk or are out of breath after walking or if they turn blue or faint, call 111 immediately.

When to get help

If your child has a disability or is high risk contact your paediatrician or care team as soon as they’re diagnosed.

If your child does not have a disability, is vaccinated and is not high risk, take them to hospital or after-hours if:

  • They look really unwell – you’re their parent, trust your instincts.
  • They are confused or very sleepy
  • They have chest pain
  • They are cold, sweaty, pale or have blotchy skin
  • They are dizzy
  • They have very bad belly pain
  • Look for contractions on their chest, like pulling in between the ribs or the nostrils puffing with their breathing. If they have breathing problems, go to hospital.

If you’re not sure, call the dedicated Covid-19 Healthline, 24 hours a day, seven days a week for free on 0800 358 5453

Again: Call 111 immediately if your child has any pauses in breathing; seem to be straining to breathe or has irregular or fast breathing; if they’re too out of breath to talk; if they are out of breath after walking; or if they turn blue or faint.


This is a scary time for you as a parent. Remember to fill your cup if you can. Talk to your friends by phone and ask for help with deliveries of groceries.

Be kind and gentle to yourself. Consider this karakia by Mero Irihapeti to protect your heart as you care for your tamariki and whānau.

Hā ki roto | Breathe in

Hā ki waho | Breathe out

Kia tau te mauri e kokiri nei | Settle the mauri that stirs inside of me

I nga piki me ngā heke | Through the ups and the downs

Ko te rangimarie tāku e rapu nei | It is peace that I seek

Tihei mauri ora


Mad Chapman, Editor
Aotearoa continues to adapt to a new reality and The Spinoff is right there, sorting fact from fiction to bring you the latest updates and biggest stories. Help us continue this coverage, and so much more, by supporting The Spinoff Members.Madeleine Chapman, EditorJoin Members

Get The Spinoff
in your inbox