As a pediatric infectious diseases specialist with OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital, Dr. Dawn Nolt gets questions from kids about COVID-19 all the time.


Her advice to parents? Stay calm.

Dr. Dawn Nolt is the medical director for infection prevention at OHSU Doernbecher Children's Hospital.

Dr. Dawn Nolt is the medical director for infection prevention at OHSU Doernbecher Children's Hospital.


“Oftentimes, when kids are asking questions, it’s from a feeling of anxiety because they’re worried about themselves and their family and their friends getting sick with coronavirus,” Nolt said.

“I would ask parents to answer the kids’ questions with calm and honesty, even if you don’t know the answer, and reassure the kids that everyone is working hard to keep people safe.”

We collected a bunch of questions from children about the coronavirus and COVID-19 and asked Nolt to answer some for us. Here are a few:

Sage, 10: “Are there any side effects after getting the vaccine? And my second question is, since kids don’t get COVID very often, and there aren’t very many vaccines, will I have to be a certain age to get one?”


Nolt: “Some side effects from the vaccines could be a sore arm where the shot went in, feeling tired, having a fever, and maybe your muscles ache. But these usually get better in one to two days. Right now, the vaccine isn’t available until you are 16 or 18 years of age, so since you’re 10 years old, you’ll have to wait a bit to get the COVID-19 vaccine. But we’re so glad you’re interested!”

Sam, 12: “We think coronavirus was caused by animals. So are there any other animals that could still infect us?”

Nolt: “Coronaviruses usually infect a specific animal but occasionally coronaviruses can jump animal species, let’s say, from a chicken to a human. So there are other animals which may have coronaviruses that could jump to us. We don’t know which animal or when this jumping will occur. So, Sam, I would make sure that you continue to wash your hands before and after touching animals. It’s a good habit to have.”

Amara, 8: “My question is, is the vaccine for COVID safe for kids?”

Nolt: “I’m so glad you’re asking about vaccines, Amara, because vaccines are going to be so important in stopping COVID-19. At this time, the available vaccines are very safe when they’re studied in grown-ups. There are studies going on in kids, even at your age, so hopefully we’ll have some information within the next year about how these vaccines work in kids. So stay tuned.”

August, 5: “I want to know how the virus got here and how the virus made itself!”

Nolt: “It’s always important to know how this pandemic got started. The story is that this virus was first noticed in a country called China when a lot of people became sick with a severe lung infection that we call pneumonia. Some very smart people realized very quickly that this was a new virus. It had never been seen before in people, and this virus seems to have come from animals, but we’re not sure which one. The virus was pretty contagious and quickly spread when people who were sick were moving around and maybe infecting other people. And so that’s how this new virus is able to spread and infect people around the world.”

Farah, 4: “Can trees get coronavirus?!”

Nolt: “Oh wow, I think Farah really likes trees! Plants could get viruses, but not the same ones that infect animals or humans. Plants are built differently than animals or humans because their cells are different. So coronaviruses infect animals and humans, but not plants. So the trees are saved from coronavirus.”

Dr. Nolt recommends the CDC’s website for talking about the coronavirus with children.

Do you or your kids have questions about COVID-19? Email them to us. Use the audio player at the top of this story to listen to Dr. Nolt answer questions.

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