As COVID-19 cases rise to record levels in the community, doctors say it’s critical to remember that kids also get COVID-19 and can become very sick. Equally important, children frequently pass the infection to parents, grandparents, and other adults who are more likely to have severe disease of even die.
That’s why it is important to prevent children as well as adults from getting infected, both to protect kids, and to protect adults.
The American Academy of Pediatrics reported in late October that children now represent 11 percent of COVID-19 cases in the United States. That number represents a significant jump from early October, indicating that cases in children are becoming more common.
“That translates to almost 11,000 children under 15 who have been diagnosed with COVOD-19 in Utah,” said Dr. Andrew Pavia, Chief of Pediatric Infectious Disease at the University of Utah and Director of Epidemiology at Intermountain Primary Children’s Hospital.
“The good news is that up to 40 percent of children who become infected have few or no symptoms. A much smaller fraction of infected children will be ill enough to be hospitalized or end up in an ICU compared to older adults,” Dr. Pavia said. “But the bad news is that some children do become very ill, some will suffer long-term consequences, and a few will die. Older teenagers are more likely to become ill than grade-school children. With the huge increase in infections in children, the number of children who are suffering the consequences of COVID-19 is increasing.”
COVID-19 also can create serious complications in children, including heart problems, shock, or in the most severe cases, Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C). MIS-C can occur three to six weeks after infection, and includes serious heart and organ impact, organ failure, and shock. There have been 15 cases of MIS-C in Utah so far, and the numbers could rise considering recent case surges.
Some kids who had COVID-19 also are experiencing symptoms similar to those described by adult “long-haulers” months after diagnosis. Several children are being referred to rheumatology and other specialists for long-term fatigue, chronic pain, shortness of breath with activity, dizziness and even brain fog from COVID-19.
Because of these complications, families should follow recent state orders to slow the spread of the disease, always wear a mask in public and practice physical distancing, and avoid gatherings with people outside your household.
Additional information can be found at intermountainhealthcare.org.