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What parents should know about kids and COVID-19

Posted at 5:14 PM, Nov 19, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-19 19:14:03-05

As COVID-19 cases rise in the community among adults, doctors say it’s critical to remember that kids also get COVID-19 and have been reported to pass it to others.

Dr. Erin Treemarcki, a pediatric rheumatologist for University of Utah Health and Intermountain Primary Children’s Hospital, says that’s even more reason for adults to take action to prevent the spread of the disease.

As of early November, children represented 11 percent of COVID-19 cases in the United States, the American Academy of Pediatrics reported. That number represents a significant jump from early October, indicating that cases in children are becoming more common.

“One-tenth is a relatively small portion, but that’s still a lot of cases – and spread,” Dr. Treemarcki said. “We need to remember that a village raises a child, and the family unit is very important, especially here in Utah. When a child gets sick with COVID-19, they may exhibit mild cold symptoms or no symptoms at all. But studies show that they pass the illness to their siblings, parents, caretakers and grandparents — sometimes with dire consequences.”

While up to 40 percent of children who become infected may have few or no symptoms, some children will be ill enough to be hospitalized or end up in an ICU, Dr. Treemarcki said. While the number of infections in children increases, so does the number of children who are suffering the consequences of COVID-19. Some severe consequences include heart problems, shock, or 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. Symptoms of MIS-C may include fever, rash, stomachache, vomiting, diarrhea, and red eyes. There have been at least 15 cases of MIS-C in Utah so far, and the numbers are likely to rise given the surge in COVID-19 cases.

Some kids who had COVID-19 also are experiencing symptoms similar to those described by adult “long-haulers” months after diagnosis. Dr. Treemarcki says 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, Dr. Treemarcki says 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. These recommendations have been shown to decrease infection – including COVID-19 and other illnesses such as flu – when everyone follows them.

“The best thing we can do to ensure our children are able to participate in activities in the future is for us as adults to do all we can to get case counts down. To do this, it’s critical for all of us to wear a mask in public,” Dr. Treemarcki said. “By wearing a mask, you’re saying to others, I care about you, and I care about my community. And we hope others will show that same level of respect.”

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