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7/21/20blog post

the latest on COVID-19 and kids

Q&A with Dr. Alter

question: What is the latest on COVID-19 and kids?


the highlights:

  • COVID-19 is less common in children than adults - only 2% of all cases are in kids.
  • While children can spread the illness to others, early studies suggest that they are less likely to spread it than adults.
  • Most kids with COVID-19 only experience mild illness, very little need for hospital admission, VERY uncommon development into MIS-C (multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children) and most recover well.

the details:

Ever since the first pediatric case of COVID-19 in the United States in March 2020, cases in children continue to appear to be less common than among adults.

Approximately 2% of cases are in people under the age of 18 and most infected children present with mild illness similar to that seen with other viral respiratory infections. Infected children typically have less fever, cough, and shortness of breath when compared to infected adults.

While the need for hospitalization in children is uncommon, hospital admissions appear to be highest in infants under the age of 1 year. Hospitalizations also may occur in children with underlying medical conditions (cardiovascular diseases, asthma, other chronic lung conditions, immunosuppressed). Although infrequent, some children may have significant disease manifested by pneumonia, need for oxygen, and other organ involvement.

Many children are asymptomatic where a test for COVID-19 can detect the presence of the virus, but the child does not appear ill.  Children (both those with symptoms and those who are asymptomatic) can spread the infection to others who are susceptible. However, studies suggest that children appear less likely to spread the virus than adults with COVID-19.

Recent reports from around the world have described previously healthy children presenting with a severe inflammatory syndrome with some features of Kawasaki disease (MIS-C: Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children associated with COVID-19). MIS-C is very uncommon.  Children and adolescents can present quite ill with persistent fever, rashes, gastrointestinal symptoms (abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea).  Multiple other organs may be involved. Some children exhibit significant cardiac disease and hypotension (low blood pressure). However, the vast majority of children with MIS-C appear to recover nicely.

A possible association with COVID-19 infection is based on positive coronavirus testing in most of these patients.  MIS-C appears to occur two to four weeks after the infection is acquired.  Ongoing research is attempting to better understand and manage children with this condition.

Alter Sherman

Sherman Alter, MD

infectious disease
view full bio

updates on COVID-19

Please use our coronavirus information hub for resources and answers to frequently asked questions about Dayton Children's response to COVID-19. You can also call our COVID-19 parent hotline at 1-888-746-KIDS (5437) from 8:00 am – 8:00 pm for additional questions.