Children are not immune to COVID-19

So far, the narrative has been that while the coronavirus may cause severe, or even fatal, disease in the elderly, the outcomes for children are reassuring. Nevertheless, there have been a few concerning reports of young people being seriously affected by the virus.

Just as with adults, children exposed to the coronavirus can be infected with it and display signs of COVID-19. At the beginning of the pandemic, it was thought that children are not getting infected with the coronavirus, but now it is clear that the amount of infection in children is the same as in adults. It’s just that when they do get the infection they get much milder symptoms.

As stated above, children with COVID-19 experience milder symptoms than adults. In this way, data from a Chinese study of COVID-19 in children confirmed slightly more than half showed mild symptoms of fever, cough, sore throat, runny nose, body aches and sneezing; while around a third showed signs of pneumonia, with frequent fever, a productive cough and wheeze but without the shortness of breath and difficulty breathing seen in more severe cases.

There were 731 (34.1%) laboratory-confirmed cases and 1,412 (65.9%) suspected cases. The median age of all patients was 7 years, and 1,213 cases (56.6%) were boys. Over 90% of all patients were asymptomatic, mild, or moderate cases. The median time from illness onset to diagnoses was 2 days. There was a rapid increase of disease at the early stage of the epidemic and then there was a gradual and steady decrease.

In conclusion, children at all ages appeared susceptible to COVID-19, and there was no significant gender difference. Although clinical manifestations of children’s COVID-19 cases were generally less severe than those of adults’ patients, young children, particularly infants, were vulnerable to infection. Additionally, the authors of another study of childhood cases in China suggest that because children have fewer chronic cardiovascular and respiratory conditions, they are more resilient to severe coronavirus infection than elderly adults.

Finally, doctors points to there are many ways in which the immune system of a child differs from that of an adult, not least because the immune system of children is still very much a work in progress: children, especially those in nursery or school, are exposed to a large number of novel respiratory infections and this might result in them having higher baseline levels of antibodies against viruses than adults.

Link to the paper: https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2020-0702

Editorial Disclaimer: information published during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic may be updated frequently to reflect the dynamic nature of current understanding.

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