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Explaining Coronavirus To Kids, And The Science Of Soap

False-color rendering of SARS-CoV-2 virus.
Centers for Disease Control

As COVID-19 spreads across the globe, the World Health Organization has declared the novel coronavirus a pandemic. We’re answering questions about the virus with infectious disease doctor Krutika Kuppalli, who studies global pandemics. And chemistry professor Palli Thordarson, from the University of New South Wales on the science of why washing your hands with plain old soap and water is so effective against germs.

Download our learning guides:PDF | Google Slide | Transcript


Dr. Krutika Kuppali says it’s understandable that kids are worried about the spread of the coronavirus; it’s new and the changes that are going on in the community are disruptive. But she recommends four things kids can do to feel better.

1. Talk to your parents (or other adults you can trust) about your fears.

2. Limit your time watching the news on TV or reading news online to once or twice a day. Kids should read or watch the news with parents so families can talk about what they’re hearing and learning. Make sure you’re getting your news from a reputable source.

3. Make a plan. Develop a plan for if your schools, child care situations, and businesses close. If you have to change your travel plans, talk as a family about what you’ll do instead.

4. Be proactive. Pick up a few extra things when you go to the market and consider having a preparedness kit. Make a small kit of things that make you feel comfortable. If you’re stuck at home for a few weeks, think about what games, books, and movies will help you pass the time.

And our host, Jane, suggests making a pact as a family to TRY not to fight. It's stressful to be together all the time under unexpected circumstances. Sometimes just agreeing out loud to give each other the benefit of the doubt can go a long way toward making the whole situation a little less tense.

For more information about what you can do to stay safe, check the CDC’s guide.

NPR has a helpful guide for what to do if you begin to experience symptoms.

For kids, NPR has released a comic book that explains the virus.

Here's a guide about coronavirus and parenting from NPR.

Read the full transcript

Melody is the Contributing Editor for But Why: A Podcast For Curious Kids and the co-author of two But Why books with Jane Lindholm.
Jane Lindholm is the host, executive producer and creator of But Why: A Podcast For Curious Kids. In addition to her work on our international kids show, she produces special projects for Vermont Public. Until March 2021, she was host and editor of the award-winning Vermont Public program Vermont Edition.
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