Monkeypox and Children: Just the Facts

By Hilary Stempel, MD, MPH ~ August 22, 2022

Monkeypox and Children: Just the Facts

Monkeypox in children: symptoms, transmission, and treatments.

What child hasn’t had a rash that made a parent scratch their head? Enter all the recent buzz about monkeypox, and it’s understandable that parents may be concerned. 

But, what is monkeypox? And is it serious for children? 

Learn more about monkeypox–and why parents don’t need to add it to their current list of worries.

What is monkeypox?

Monkeypox is all over the headlines these days. In fact, at the beginning of August 2022, the U.S. declared monkeypox a Public Health Emergency. This does not mean that it is a pandemic like COVID. 

The monkeypox virus was first found in 1958 in monkeys kept for research. The name came from the rash it caused on these monkeys. The first human case was found in 1970. Since spring of 2022, there have been many cases of monkeypox in adults across the world. However, very few monkeypox illnesses have been reported in children.

To understand more about monkeypox, it’s important to know how it spreads to people. Fortunately, the way a person becomes infected with monkeypox is very different from COVID-19, and this makes it less contagious for most people.

How is monkeypox spread?

  •  Close contact, which can include:

    • Close skin-to-skin contact with a person with monkeypox

    • Touching objects, fabrics (bedding, clothing, or towels), or surfaces that have been used by someone with monkeypox

    • Contacting respiratory droplets during long, close face-to-face contact with a person who has monkeypox. (Unlike COVID, monkeypox is not spread by brief conversations with someone with the illness.)

  • Intimate Contact:

    • Hugging, kissing, or sex with a person with monkeypox

  • Infected Animals

    • Bites or scratches from an infected animal

What are the symptoms of monkeypox?

The rash is the easiest way to identify monkeypox. In the beginning, the rash is flat. Then, the rash turns into raised bumps, and later blisters (like chickenpox). In time, these blisters break open, scab over, and then the skin heals.

Before the rash appears, people may have these symptoms:

  • Fever

  • Chills

  • Swollen lymph nodes

  • Headache

  • Cough, sore throat, and nasal congestion

  • Tiredness


What is the treatment for monkeypox?

People with healthy immune systems usually do not need special medications and get better on their own. In people with weak immune systems or young children, an antiviral medication (Tecovirimat) may be used for treatment of monkeypox.

Vaccines are available for monkeypox and can be given to children. At this point, if a child has a close exposure to someone with monkeypox, it could be helpful for them to receive the vaccine. Your pediatrician can help decide if this is needed. 

How common is monkeypox in children?

In August 2022, there were fewer than 10 cases of monkeypox in children in the U.S. Monkeypox is not common in children, and pediatricians are not concerned that monkeypox will spread in school.

The bottom line for parents…

Monkeypox usually spreads by very close physical contact, and this makes it less common in children. If you’re worried that there has been a close exposure, reach out to your pediatrician. Otherwise, know that other viruses are a much more common reason for your child to have a rash.


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