COVID-19 information for children and young people

COVID-19 information for children and young people

Last updated: 21 July 2021

The coronavirus has been a worrying time, especially if you have a condition like arthritis.

Healthcare professionals who look after young people with arthritis and similar conditions, including related eye conditions, have been studying the latest information about the virus.

They’ve found no evidence that children and young people with arthritis are more likely to get COVID-19.

And they’re also able to say that having a condition like arthritis does not mean young people will become more unwell if they do get COVID-19. This is true even if you are on drugs that dampen down your immune system.

This advice from paediatric and adolescent rheumatology and ophthalmology healthcare professionals is for children and young people aged up to 18. If you have a different health condition as well, specialists covering that condition may have different advice.

Resources for parents and carers

For more information, read the COVID-19 resources for parents and carers on the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health website.

General coronavirus questions

Is there a possibility I’ll have to shield again?

The advice from a team of leading paediatric rheumatology doctors from across the UK is that children with arthritis and similar conditions don’t have to shield, even if they are on drugs that dampen down their immune system. This is based on evidence from the Royal College of Paediatric and Child Health.

Of course, every child and young person is an individual. If you’ve been told by your rheumatology team that you are clinically extremely vulnerable, or if a doctor looking after you for a different condition has told you this, then you should follow that advice.

It’s thought that you shouldn’t get a letter to say that you’re clinically extremely vulnerable based simply on the fact that you have arthritis or a related condition, including if you are on drugs that dampen down your immune system. So if you do get a shielding letter, talk to your rheumatology team for advice.

Read the latest COVID-19 advice and guidance for people over 18 in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales

Will I be offered the vaccine?

You may have seen on the news that young people aged 12 to 15 who have certain health conditions, can now have a COVID-19 vaccine. Some young people aged 16 and 17 could already have a vaccine under existing rules.

Rheumatology healthcare professionals are working out if this means that children and young people with arthritis are among those who can have the vaccine. We’ll update our webpages as soon as we have more information.

If you’re aged 18 and over, for more information, read vaccines for COVID-19 – your questions answered.

In addition, the RCPCH has issued a statement about the coronavirus vaccination programme for children and young people.

How do I keep myself mentally and physically healthy in these uncertain times?

This has been a tough time for many of us, but particularly young people as many aspects of your lives have been disrupted or put on hold.

If you’re upset, worried or anxious, talk to someone. This could be a friend, relative or a healthcare professional. Bottling things up can make those feelings worse, and there will always be help and support available.

The NHS has created a new website called Every Mind Matters, with advice, information and support about mental health.

Regular exercise is so good for all of us physically and mentally. Find something that you enjoy, such as walking, cycling or online exercise classes. Read more about ways to stay active.

It’s also really good for our mental health to find time for things that we enjoy and help us to relax, such as talking to friends and family, listening to music, reading, or watching a good film. Learn more about looking after your wellbeing.

What other general advice do you have for young people with arthritis?

It’s still very important for all of us to follow the messages around washing our hands regularly and really well, and to social distance.

Follow your local rheumatology team’s advice about getting this year’s flu vaccine.

Look out for any advice or instructions from the government or your local council.

If you have any concerns talk to your rheumatology team.

Could I have COVID-19 without realising it? And if so, could I pass it on to other people?

Yes, so it’s still very important to follow the guidance about social distancing and regularly washing your hands really well. There may be more specific advice or instructions for your local area.

What can I do to protect myself if someone in my household has COVID-19?

The person with COVID-19 will need to shield themselves from the rest of the household as much as possible.

Follow the advice that is being issued to the general public as much as possible, including:

  • everyone in the house washing their hands regularly and well
  • if you can use separate bathrooms and toilets from the person who is unwell
  • keep toilets and bathrooms in the house as clean as possible.

There is more advice from Public Health England.

What should I do if I get ill with COVID-19?

Get in touch with your rheumatology team to let them know you’re unwell. They will tell you what to do with your medication.

Your medication will be managed in the same way it would be if you become unwell at any other time. If you have a fever, it’s likely you’ll be told to stop your medicines (apart from steroids), until you’ve recovered.

It’s important you do not stop or change any medication before talking to a healthcare professional.

If you are concerned about yourself call for emergency help as you would do normally.

For the latest guidance about coronavirus, visit the Gov UK website.

Vaccines for COVID-19

My child normally has the flu vaccine – why aren’t they being prioritised for the COVID vaccine?

Coronavirus is different from flu and these two illnesses impact different parts of the population in different ways. As children appear to be at much lower risk from COVID-19, including those on drugs that dampen down the immune system, they're not currently being prioritised for the COVID-19 vaccine.

Is it safe to be in close contact with people who have had the vaccine?

For now the advice is that those who have had the vaccine can carry the virus that causes COVID-19, and could pass it on, so are advised to still practice social distancing and wear a mask.

However, your child is not at more risk than other children. It's important for everyone to consider risks to elderly or vulnerable members of the family before reuniting with family members once lockdown lifts and continue to follow government guidance regarding social distancing, mask wearing and regular handwashing.

When I’m offered the vaccine, does it count as a live vaccine?

No. None of the licenced vaccines are described as live, and so can be given to people on drugs that dampen down the immune system, when it’s their turn to have the vaccine.

Medication and treatments

Is it safe to continue taking my immune-suppressing medication?

Yes, if you stop any medication you may be more at risk of a flare-up of your arthritis.

There is no evidence that children and young people with arthritis and related conditions are at any more risk of getting COVID-19. This includes young people who are on drugs that suppress the immune system.

Talk to your rheumatology team if you have any questions or concerns.

I’ve been told to have my medication as an injection, when I normally have it as an infusion. Is there any help I can have with this?

Your rheumatology team will let you know what support is available.

Many young people feel happy to give themselves injections once they have been shown how to do it. Another option is to have a family member give you the injection.

If you’re struggling, contact your rheumatology team for help.

My joint injections have been cancelled. How long will I have to wait for these to be rescheduled and what should I do in the meantime?

This is a difficult question to answer, as it may vary between hospitals.

If possible, you may be asked if you want a steroid injection without a general anaesthetic to put you to sleep. This won’t be possible at every hospital.

You might be asked if you’d like to take a short dose of steroid tablets to help treat your condition instead of an injection.

Hospital appointments and check ups

I am worried about going into hospital for appointments – will it be safe?

If you’re unwell and think you might need to be seen in a hospital, it’s important that you still go. People with COVID-19 are in different parts of hospitals to people who don’t have it.

However, many outpatient appointments are now being carried out over the phone or as video calls.

If someone from the hospital calls, make sure you have time to chat to them on your own – it’s still your appointment even if it’s on the phone or by a video call.

Have a think before-hand about what you want to say, how you’ve been feeling and any concerns you have. Make the most of the time you have and get the advice you need.

You could use the Arthritis Tracker before and during appointments as a reminder of what symptoms you’ve had. And you could show your healthcare team your summary.

Your rheumatology team will be able to decide if you need to go into hospital to see them, depending on how you’re feeling.

Please don’t go into hospital if you or anyone in your household has symptoms of COVID-19, or if you have had contact with someone who has symptoms. If this is the case get in touch with your rheumatology team before your appointment, so they can talk to you about what should happen. It’s likely they’ll offer you an appointment on a different day.

If you do go into hospital, you might be asked to have a swab test before-hand, have your temperature taken and wear a mask.

What should I do if I have a flare-up?

Contact your rheumatology team for advice, they will always be there to support you.

I am concerned about eye checks. How can I make sure my uveitis is well controlled?

You should be aware of any signs or symptoms of uveitis, especially now if you’re not having your eyes checked. Symptoms include:

  • blurry vision
  • difficulty looking at light
  • changes to the appearance of your iris or your pupils
  • redness in the whites of your eyes near the coloured part of your eye, known as the iris.

If you have any of those symptoms, get in touch with your rheumatology team.

Many opticians are open again and you may be able to ask them for advice – particularly if you have seen them before and they know your history. But, not all opticians are trained to monitor for uveitis.

It will be ok to postpone an upcoming eye check if all the following are true for you:

  • you’ve had an eye check in the past
  • you’ve never had uveitis
  • you take methotrexate or adalimumab, or both together – as these drugs can treat uveitis.

If you have uveitis that’s being treated and is under control you will be able to have check-ups with your healthcare team on a phone or video call. By well controlled we mean:

  • you haven’t had any signs or symptoms of uveitis or troubles with your eyes recently
  • you don’t take more than one dose of eye drops a day
  • you haven’t noticed any changes to or problems with your vision.

You’ll be asked to come into the eye clinic for an appointment if:

  • your uveitis is still causing symptoms
  • you’ve only recently been diagnosed with JIA
  • you haven’t ever had an eye check
  • you have recently stopped taking adalimumab or methotrexate.

If you have any questions or concerns about your eyes, get in touch with your rheumatology or ophthalmology department.

I’ve been told I can wait longer before having blood tests again. Is this ok and how long is too long between blood tests?

If the results of your previous blood tests have been normal, they can now be done less often.

Once blood tests are stable, it’s usually safe for them to be carried out every three months.

If there have been problems with your blood tests before and you’re being monitored by your rheumatology team, they’ll be able to tell you how often you’ll need to have blood tests.

If your GP prescribes you methotrexate and does the blood tests, your rheumatology team can advise your GP how often blood tests need to be done.

Keeping active

I have got very stiff in my muscles and joints due to the limited exercise I've had recently. What can I do to help myself?

The first thing to do is chat with your rheumatology team in case it’s a flare in your condition. However, stiffness can be due to lack of exercise and movement, and some simple physio exercises can help with this. Your physio team can help direct you to suitable and specific exercises. We have some exercises you can do at home.

Here is a gentle stretching class from Bobbie, a choreographer and theatre director who has been teaching dance classes online during the lockdown.

Although Bobbie is an adult with rheumatoid arthritis, the exercise are suitable for any type of arthritis.

For more inspiration on ways to get moving at home go to the We are Undefeatable website. They have ideas ranging from chair exercises, yoga to dancing in your kitchen.


We're here for you at any time

If you’re feeling isolated from family and friends during these uncertain times, we’re here for you. 

< Back to information for young people about living with arthritis

If you have a bit of time and want to get involved in some opportunities for young people with arthritis check out Your Rheum or check what's happening in your area for young people.