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COVID-19 Symptoms: Delta variant in kids

Written by Ada’s Medical Knowledge Team

Updated on


  • Delta symptoms in kids are similar to those of other coronavirus strains, with more possibility of upper respiratory symptoms such as a stuffy or runny nose and a sore throat.
  • Symptoms of the Delta variant in children may suddenly worsen. In this case, you should seek immediate medical attention. 
  • The Delta variant is highly contagious, so it’s recommended to get tested if you think you might have been infected. 

Delta symptoms in kids are often similar to those of other variants, although there are some differences that parents should be aware of. This article will run you through the symptoms that you can expect, the possible risks, and prevention and treatment strategies. 

Which symptoms of the Delta variant can be expected in children?

The symptoms of the Delta variant in kids are usually mild. Some children don’t experience symptoms of a Delta infection at all. However, studies suggest that the Delta variant is more dangerous for some kids, as it could cause more severe symptoms and a higher hospitalization rate than previous variants. Studies noted that Omicron had even more hospitalizations, but the symptoms were less severe than with Delta. 1

Delta symptoms in kids can usually be found in the upper respiratory tract and are often associated with fever and cough, as opposed to previous variants. The most commonly reported symptoms that children with the Delta variant experience are: 2 3

How is the Delta variant affecting children with risk factors? 

Although most kids who experience Delta variant symptoms recover quickly, children with underlying risk factors may need hospitalization, mechanical ventilation, or ICU admission. The risk of death due to an infection with the coronavirus also increases for children with underlying health conditions such as: 1

Studies suggest that hospitalization in children with underlying health issues mainly occurs with infants aged 0 - 4. This is primarily because: 1

  • Their fever should be monitored more closely.
  • They often develop a viral co-infection, meaning that they are prone to infections with other viruses.
  • They can not be vaccinated yet. 

Also for the age group between 12 -17 years, the odds of hospitalization are slightly higher than for children aged 5-11. You can protect your kids best from the Delta variant by vaccinating them. Vaccination is found to be an effective preventative measure to reduce the risk of hospitalization.

Children and the Delta variant: testing and diagnosis

If your child is experiencing symptoms of the Delta variant, then getting them tested is recommended. If present, your child can be diagnosed with an acute coronavirus infection. By getting diagnosed, you can help prevent the spread of the coronavirus, as children with undiagnosed COVID-19 that attend school or other activities can easily pass the virus on to others. Children can be tested with nucleic acid amplification tests (NAATs) and antigen tests. 1

In order to know which test is more suitable for your child with Delta symptoms, it's essential to consider these guidelines: 5

  • If your child was exposed to the virus, but doesn’t show any symptoms of COVID-19 and has had COVID-19 within the past 30 days, testing is generally not recommended.
  • If your child shows symptoms of COVID-19 and has already been infected with the coronavirus within the past 30 days, performing an antigen test is recommended. The test should be repeated after 48 hours if the result is negative.
  • If your child has been exposed to the coronavirus and has had COVID-19 within 30 - 90 days, then it’s best to use an antigen test at least 5 days after the exposure. The test should be repeated once after 48 hours for children with symptoms. If your child doesn’t experience any symptoms, then the test should be repeated twice.  

The Delta variant in kids is said to be more contagious than previous variants such as Alpha and Beta. Schools may also offer diagnostic tests for students with symptoms of COVID-19 or for those who were exposed to someone with COVID-19. This is especially important for those who attend activities with a high risk of virus transmission, such as contact sports, band practice, choir, or theater. The school can also organize screening testing after large school events or breaks. 1 6

It may be harder to diagnose the Delta variant in babies, as most infants born to people with COVID-19 do not immediately test positive for an infection with the coronavirus. Therefore, the CDC recommends testing infants at least once before hospital discharge if one of the parents is infected with COVID-19. If babies show symptoms of COVID-19 themselves, then they should be tested instantly. 1

How long do Delta symptoms in kids last? 

Usually, symptoms of the Delta variant in children are quite mild. In most cases, the symptoms go away independently after a few days. However, some children may develop severe symptoms which require hospitalization. There are a few signs that you should look out for, being: 7

If your child experiences any of these symptoms, you should contact emergency services immediately. 

Some children with Delta symptoms may develop a multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MIS-C). This condition rarely occurs but can be very dangerous. It causes inflammation in multiple systems in the body, such as the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes, or stomach and intestines. If your child has a continuous fever combined with stomach pain, bloodshot eyes, diarrhea, dizziness, skin rash or vomiting, you should contact your doctor right away. 7

What else can cause Delta variant symptoms in children?

The signs of the Delta variant in kids may be quite similar to those of other respiratory illnesses, such as the flu or the common cold. Fever is usually more common with COVID-19, but the symptoms are generally very alike, making it impossible to determine which condition your child has based on the symptoms alone. Getting tested for COVID-19 is the best solution if you’re doubtful about what is causing their symptoms. 8

Treating symptoms of the Delta variant in kids

Delta variant symptoms in children, such as a fever and a cough, can usually be treated at home with over- the- counter medication painkillers, anti-inflammatory drugs, and cough syrups. It would help if you talked to your pediatrician to know which medication is more suitable.

Other symptoms of the Delta variant, such as fever, can be treated by: 9

  • Resting as much as possible
  • Making sure that your child drinks enough water
  • Asking your pediatrician which medication to give to your child to lower their temperature

It’s essential to monitor your child’s symptoms and to contact your doctor if you notice that your child: 9

  • Is gradually getting worse
  • Has difficulty breathing 
  • Feels very weak 
  • Is shaking or shivering
  • Is still unwell after a week

Wrapping up

The symptoms of the Delta variant in kids are quite similar to those of previous coronavirus strains. This variant is, however, more contagious than Alpha and Beta, and causes more upper respiratory tract symptoms, such as a runny or stuffy nose and a sore throat. In some cases, Delta symptoms in kids may get severe rapidly and may require hospitalization. Thus, it's crucial to monitor your child's symptoms closely and seek medical attention immediately if you notice that their symptoms suddenly worsen.


Q: Is the Delta variant affecting children? 
A: The Delta variant can affect anyone from any age category, including children. Delta can also spread rapidly amongst children, as they’re often in close contact at schools or extracurricular activities.

Q: How to protect kids from the Delta variant? 
A: Vaccination is the best way to prevent an infection with the Delta variant. Besides that, good hand hygiene and social distancing are also helpful ways to prevent infection.

Q: What are the top symptoms of the Delta variant in children?
A: The most commonly reported symptoms of the Delta variant in children are a runny or stuffy nose, a sore throat, headaches, cough, fatigue, sneezing, fever, and a loss of smell or taste. 

Q: Is the Delta variant more dangerous for kids? 
A: Most cases of the Delta variant cause mild symptoms in children. However, some children need hospitalization due to an infection with the Delta variant, so it's recommended to monitor your child's symptoms closely.