Monkeypox in Kids: What Parents Need to Know

Dr. Larry Kociolek, Medical Director of Infection, Prevention and Control and attending physician in Infectious Diseases, answers commonly asked questions about monkeypox.

What is monkeypox? 

Monkeypox is a disease caused by the monkeypox virus.

What are the symptoms of monkeypox in kids?

Monkeypox typically presents with fever, swollen lymph nodes, and rash that progresses from small bumps to fluid filled blisters. While most cases are relatively mild and do not require hospitalization or treatment, some monkeypox illnesses can be severe, especially those with weakened immune systems or in unborn babies if a mother were to get monkeypox while pregnant. In certain parts of the world, monkeypox is transmitted from animals to humans. Once a human is infected, transmission can occur between humans. 

How does monkeypox spread?

Monkeypox can spread between people during any type of close contact including direct contact with monkeypox skin lesions, shared bedding or clothing, or respiratory secretions. Transmission can occur between the start of symptoms and until all skin lesions heal, which can last 2-4 weeks. Symptoms usually start 1-2 weeks after exposure. Close contact may occur during sexual activity. In this current outbreak, the majority of cases in the US have been related to close contact through sexual activity. However, anyone can get monkeypox through close contact irrespective of sexual activity. 

How can parents protect their kids from it?

In this current outbreak, there have been very few cases in children reported in the US (currently fewer than 5, which is less than 0.1% of total cases). Outside of the US, there have been very few (less than 10) pediatric cases reported. Children are at very low risk of developing monkeypox, and in general, parents should not yet be too concerned about their child getting monkeypox. Parents should be familiar with signs and symptoms of monkeypox, and risk factors for getting monkeypox, and seek care if they think they themselves may have monkeypox. This will prevent parents from transmitting to children. For parents of adolescents, the American Academy of Pediatrics provides advice about how parents can discuss sex at an age-appropriate level. Parents can also engage their pediatrician in these discussions at adolescent well-child visits. Because monkeypox can be transmitted through close intimate contact that can occur during sexual activity, sexual education generally may reduce an adolescent’s risk of getting monkeypox.

What should I do if my child has monkeypox?

Fortunately, monkeypox tends to be a mild illness in most cases. If a child catches it, parents should take measures to prevent spread to others. The child should remain at home until all lesions have healed, which can take 2-4 weeks. Keeping all skin lesions covered and wearing a mask can also prevent transmission to other people in the home. 

How serious should parents be taking this new infectious disease?

Currently, parents should educate themselves about monkeypox and be familiar with how to recognize it in themselves and their children and how to prevent it. Parents should be reassured about the relatively low risk children have for monkeypox at this point in the outbreak. 

Where can I find additional information about monkeypox? 

Visit Chicago Department of Public Health and CDC.

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