2 minute read
15 May 2020
8:33 am

How Covid-19 affects children – it’s worse than we thought


Despite the claims about children’s resilience to the virus, COVID-19 does affect children and the complications are worse than previously thought…

This is according to a study published in JAMA Pediatrics.

“The idea that Covid-19 is sparing of young people is just false,” says study co-author Lawrence C. Kleinman, professor and vice-chair for academic development and chief of the Department of Paediatrics’ Division of Population Health, Quality and Implementation Science at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.

“While children are more likely to get very sick if they have other chronic conditions, including obesity, it is important to note that children without chronic illness are also at risk. Parents need to continue to take the virus seriously.”

The study is the first to describe the characteristics of seriously ill paediatric Covid-19 patients in North America. Researchers followed 48 children and young adults – from newborns to 21 years old – who were admitted to paediatric intensive care units (PICUs) in the United States and Canada for Covid-19 in March and April.

More than 80 percent had chronic underlying conditions, such as immune suppression, obesity, diabetes, seizures or chronic lung disease. Of those, 40 percent depended on technological support due to developmental delays or genetic anomalies.

Organ failure and ventilators

More than 20 percent experienced failure of two or more organ systems due to Covid-19, and nearly 40 percent required a breathing tube and ventilator.

At the end of the follow-up period, nearly 33 percent of the children were still hospitalised due to Covid-19, with three still requiring ventilator support and one on life support. Two of the children admitted during the three-week study period died.

“This study provides a baseline understanding of the early disease burden of COVID-19 in paediatric patients,” says Hariprem Rajasekhar, a paediatric intensivist involved in conducting the study at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School’s Department of Paediatrics. “The findings confirm that this emerging disease was already widespread in March and that it is not universally benign among children.”

The researchers said they were “cautiously encouraged” by hospital outcomes for the children studied, citing the 4,2 percent mortality rate for PICU patients compared with published mortality rates of up to 62 percent among adults admitted to ICUs, as well as lower incidences of respiratory failure.

New Covid-related syndrome in children

Prof Kleinman notes that doctors in the New York metropolitan area are seeing what appears to be a new Covid-related syndrome in children.

“Although our data collection for this study has ended, we continue to develop collaborations with colleagues in our region and across the country to try to understand these more severe complications,” he says, citing concerns such as heart failure and the Kawasaki disease-like condition termed paediatric multi-system inflammatory syndrome as examples.

Source: Rutgers University via

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