There is a paucity of evidence about the prevalence and risk factors for symptomatic infection among children. This study aimed to describe the prevalence of symptomatic coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) and its risk factors in children and adolescents aged 0–18 years in Qatar. We conducted a cross-sectional study of all children aged 0–18 years diagnosed with COVID-19 using polymerase chain reaction in Qatar during the period 1st March to 31st July 2020. A generalised linear model with a binomial family and identity link was used to assess the association between selected factors and the prevalence of symptomatic infection. A total of 11 445 children with a median age of 8 years (interquartile range (IQR) 3–13 years) were included in this study. The prevalence of symptomatic COVID-19 was 36.6% (95% confidence interval (CI) 35.7–37.5), and it was similar between children aged <5 years (37.8%), 5–9 years (34.3%) and 10 + years (37.3%). The most frequently reported symptoms among the symptomatic group were fever (73.5%), cough (34.8%), headache (23.2%) and sore throat (23.2%). Fever (82.8%) was more common in symptomatic children aged <5 years, while cough (38.7%) was more prevalent in those aged 10 years or older, compared to other age groups. Variables associated with an increased risk of symptomatic infection were; contact with confirmed cases (RD 0.21; 95% CI 0.20–0.23; P = 0.001), having visited a health care facility (RD 0.54; 95% CI 0.45–0.62; P = 0.001), and children aged under 5 years (RD 0.05; 95% CI 0.02–0.07; P = 0.001) or aged 10 years or older (RD 0.04; 95% CI 0.02–0.06; P = 0.001). A third of the children with COVID-19 were symptomatic with a higher proportion of fever in very young children and a higher proportion of cough in those between 10 and 18 years of age.