COVID-19 is called a “novel” coronavirus because it is a new viral strain that has not previously been seen in humans. Because it is new, scientists continue to learn about the disease and how it impacts us. One topic we are gaining a growing understanding about is how COVID-19 affects children. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released updated guidance last week to reflect new information about COVID-19 and children.
Do children get COVID-19?
Yes. The fact that children can catch COVID-19 is not new, but it has not been clear how susceptible children are for infection. We know that children have made up a smaller percentage of COVID-19 cases. The CDC’s latest guidance notes that while children make up 22% of the population, only 7% of all diagnosed cases of COVID-19 in the United States were for children (as of 8/3/20). In Skagit County, the percentage of cases in children is somewhat higher at 14%, but children still make up a lower proportion of cases than in the adult population.
One explanation for the lower COVID-19 rate among children is that because kids frequently get colds, which are often caused by other coronaviruses, their antibodies provide some protection from COVID-19. Another theory is that community measures like school closures were effective in keeping children safe. As communities have opened up, cases in children have increased. Nationwide, there was a 90% increase in child cases over the four weeks from 7/9/20 to 8/6/20.
What are COVID-19 symptoms for children?
Generally, COVID-19 symptoms in children are similar to but milder than in adults. The most common symptoms in children are cough and/or fever, but children may also show no symptoms at all.
According to a recent American Academy of Pediatrics report, severe illness due to COVID-19 is rare among children. Although infrequent, children younger than age 2 appear to be at higher risk of severe illness with COVID-19 than older children. This is likely due to their immature immune systems and smaller airways, which make them more susceptible to developing breathing issues.
There have also been some reports of children developing a rare complication called multi-system inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C). MIS-C is a serious condition in which different body parts can become inflamed, which causes heart or other organ complications. The CDC is still learning about MIS-C and how it affects children, so we do not know why some children have gotten sick with MIS-C and others have not. MIS-C can be serious, even deadly, but most children who were diagnosed with this condition have gotten better with medical care.
What symptoms should I be worried about in children?
Parents or caretakers should immediately contact urgent or emergency medical care if they notice these warning signs in a child:
- Trouble breathing
- Pain or pressure in the chest that does not go away
- New confusion
- Inability to wake or stay awake
- Bluish lips or face
- Severe abdominal pain
If you have children in your home, the CDC recommends some other general precautions for your whole household to help stay safe:
- If others in your home have an increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19, consider extra precautions to separate your child from those people.
- If you are unable to stay home with your child while school is out or conducted remotely, carefully consider who can best provide childcare. If someone at higher risk for COVID-19 will be providing care (e.g. a grandparent or someone with a chronic medical condition), limit your children’s contact with other people so they are less likely to come into contact with the virus and expose their caretakers.
- Consider postponing visits or trips to see older family members and grandparents. Connect virtually or by writing letters and sending via mail.
If you do have a child that is showing mild COVID-19 symptoms or have been exposed to someone with COVID-19, the Skagit County Drive-Thru site will test anyone five years of age or older with parent or guardian approval. Families with children younger than five should reach out to their pediatric provider’s office to ask about testing.
CDC Information for Pediatric Healthcare Providers:
Washington Skagit COVID dashboard:
Children & COVID-19-State Level Data Report, American Academy of Pediatrics: https://services.aap.org/en/pages/2019-novel-coronavirus-covid-19-infections/children-and-covid-19-state-level-data-report/