Are children now more at risk from COVID-19?

by Dr Kirsty Benton


Are children now more at risk from COVID-19?

The data worldwide shows that COVID-19 is a disease that is more dangerous in adults compared to children. Evidence shows that the majority of children have mild symptoms or even none at all. Not until recently have we started to see reports of a severe inflammatory syndrome related to COVID-19 in a small number of children in the UK.


First off, it is important to emphasise that this new illness is incredibly rare. One of London’s largest children’s hospitals has so far only seen 21 cases in total. Most of those children have made a good recovery after being initially very unwell although a couple are still receiving intensive care treatment. Very sadly one of those children has passed away. I truly appreciate even though the numbers are small this will be worrying for parents.


The purpose of this post is to help clarify some of the details about this new illness that has been in the headlines. I also want to highlight some symptoms that may need medical attention. Importantly most of these symptoms will not be due this new COVID-19 related syndrome and are much more likely to be due to other illnesses. I also want to emphasise that the NHS is still, as always, open to all. Please call 111, contact your GP, an out of hours GP or attend A&E as usual if you are worried.


What is this new COVID-19 related illness? This is a very new condition termed Paediatric Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome Temporarily Associated with Sars CoV-2 (PMIS-TS). Current evidence suggests there is a link but because this is such a new syndrome information is limited.

We do know however that the majority of children tolerate an infection from COVID-19 very well. It is thought this syndrome can occur a couple of weeks down the line when their immune system goes into ‘overdrive’, this causes problems in multiple organs at the same time. This new syndrome shares many features with other rare but serious inflammatory diseases we already know about in children. Most of the affected children have tested negative for COVID-19 PCR (nose swab) which supports current evidence that the virus has been likely eradicated from the body, and it’s the subsequent immune reaction that causes the problem. This unfortunately means that the symptoms can be vague and non-specific.


So if your child has any of the symptoms below or even if you are worried then please seek medical advice; it is important to remember that these symptoms are all also caused by a number of common and mild illnesses, so are not necessarily great cause for concern.

  • Persistent fever >38.5

  • Abdominal pain

  • Diarrhoea

  • Vomiting

  • Sore throat

  • Cough

  • Conjunctivitis

  • Rash

  • Difficulty breathing


We have attached a traffic light system of symptoms developed by The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health to help direct you if you think your child is unwell.




Sources:

WHO

CDC

South Thames Paediatric Network

RCPCH

The Lancet Journal

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