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Articles and Updates from Phoenix Children's

August 11, 2020, Kirkilas, Gary, DO ,
Emphasizing the Evidence: Children with COVID-19 Do Well

As parents, we worry about our children. We worry about their education, safety and overall wellbeing. (In fact, a study once cited that parents spend up to 37 hours a week worrying about their children, literally and figuratively a full time job.) While this worry sometimes keeps us on track, other times it is counterproductive. With the COVID-19 pandemic, many parents’ anxieties are skyrocketing. (Mine sure are.) However, ongoing research continues to put our anxiety at ease by showing that the overwhelming majority of children with COVID-19 do well.

Since the first U.S. case of COVID-19 appeared in January, we have been intrigued with how and why the virus spares most children from experiencing severe symptoms or complications. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that while children make up nearly a quarter of the entire U.S. population, they amazingly only account for around 9.1 percent of COVID-19 cases. Experts report two situations that may be the cause of this: First, are children less susceptible to getting the infections? Or are children less likely to show clinical symptoms and thus not accounted for? Perhaps it is a combination of the two.

Regardless of children being less susceptible, it has been clear since the beginning that when children do become infected with COVID-19, the majority will either have no symptoms or very mild symptoms. A recent study published showed that 79% of children ages 10-19 who tested positive for COVID-19 either had no symptoms at all or symptoms so mild they may not be noticed4. In other words, only 20% of children had any reportable symptoms. In comparison, people over the age of 70 showed reportable symptoms about 70% of the time.

CDC continues to update their COVID-19 hospitalizations rates weekly by age here.  Now, it’s important to remember that COVID-19 is not completely harmless to children. The multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C), which Phoenix Children’s Heart Center Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit (CVICU) Division Chief Dr. Koch has discussed here, is real and continues to receive media attention. Though this is a serious complication that is presumed to be linked to the body’s COVID-19 antibody response, it luckily is both rare and treatable.

For the worrying parent being bombarded with headlines about hospitals surging with patients, holding on to some factual-based good news is a welcomed relief. And as the CDC advises, let’s continue to diligently practice social distancing and good hand hygiene to help prevent the spread of the virus.

Please remember, if you have questions about your child’s health or are unsure if they may have symptoms of COVID-19, the pediatricians at Phoenix Children’s are available to you via our new telemedicine system. You can see and speak with your regular pediatrician right from the comfort of your own home! Your pediatrician can provide many of the same aspects of care through telemedicine as through an in-person visit: order medications and labs, review labs, and do a modified physical exam.

[1] FIGURE. COVID-19 associated Hospitalizations By Age

[1] Eddowes, Jessica. “Lice Clinics of America in conjunction with OnePoll surveyed 2,000 parents living in the U.S. to unveil their top worries.”  17 Oct. 2018. Web. 1 April 2020   

[2] CDC COVID-19 Response Team. Coronavirus disease 2019 in children - United States, February 12–April 2, 2020. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2020;69(14):422–426

[3] “COVID-NET A weekly summary of U.S. COVID-19 hospitalization data” 18 July 2020

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