Parents seek clarity on coronavirus 

A GP looks at the facts and myths on pain and fever management during Covid-19 
Parents seek clarity on coronavirus 
Dr Sinead Beirne

DESPITE Covid-19 being widely reported around the world, a survey of 454 parents in Ireland found some ‘Covid confusion’, with more than one-quarter saying there’s too much contradictory information around treating virus symptoms, like fever in children.

Three in 10 parents are confused about whether their child can take ibuprofen to treat potential Covid-19 symptoms. This confusion led to 21% letting common ailments (e.g. sore throats, nasal/sinus congestion, fever) go untreated during the pandemic.

Dublin-based GP Dr Sinead Beirne says there has been a lot of fake news on social media suggesting ibuprofen was unsafe to use. “There’s no scientific evidence that this is so – ibuprofen, as well as other agents like paracetamol, are effective at treating pain and fever, whether Covid-19 related or not,” says Dr Beirne, who doesn’t endorse any medication brands.

With a large percentage of under-sixes at her Irishtown/Ringsend practice, Dr Beirne – a mum of three young children – is anticipating a lot more queries from concerned parents as children return to childcare and school settings. 

There’ll be more viruses when kids start moving again.

On the question of how susceptible children are to Covid-19, which naturally worries parents, Dr Beirne confirms that, among children who get coronavirus, babies are at more risk of serious breathing symptoms. And as with adults, children who have underlying conditions, for example, uncontrolled asthma, develop more serious symptoms if they get Covid-19.

The role of children in transmitting the virus to others isn’t clear, Dr Beirne says. “Although infected children shed coronavirus, limited evidence suggests transmission by children is uncommon.” 

She points to a study of nine students and nine teaching staff infected with Covid-19 in Australia – two secondary infections were identified among 735 student contacts (one potentially from a staff member, the other potentially from two classmates). No cases were identified among 128 staff contacts. The researchers say this provides limited evidence that “transmission by symptomatic children is uncommon outside the household setting”.

In another study, no secondary cases of Covid-19 occurred among 112 school contacts exposed to a nine-year-old boy with respiratory symptoms and infection with coronavirus.

Dr Beirne recommends parents do what’s in their control to keep themselves/their family safe. “Educate children to maintain a social distance. You can still be friendly, give virtual hugs, blow kisses, wave and smile, while trying to live with Covid-19.”

  •  Dr Sinead Beirne shares facts and dispels myths around effective pain and fever management during Covid-19 in a video (see, as part of Share the Facts, a campaign launched by RB, makers of Nurofen.

Top tips

  • Hand-washing’s more important than ever. Get children to sing ‘Happy Birthday to You’. 
  • Have hand-sanitiser with you when out and about, in the buggy/car.
  • If children are over two and can tolerate it, they can wear a mask. “I’ve done it with my kids. They think it’s a bit of craic – like they’re superheroes,” says Dr Beirne.
  • Treat temperature (whether Covid-19 or not) with paracetamol/ibuprofen.
  • If temperature doesn’t reduce, having given medication, and/or if child’s colour isn’t good/they’re refusing to eat, contact GP.

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