As the novel coronavirus sweeps the world, children and infants have not been featured prominently in COVID-19 case statistics. Although the numbers of cases are low, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), they are not one hundred percent spared from the virus.
The CDC informed that the symptoms of COVID-19 are similar in children and adults. However, children with confirmed COVID-19 have generally presented with mild symptoms. Dr. L. Nelson Sanchez-Pinto, a Critical Care Physician at the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago shared with Medical Daily the effect the coronavirus has on children and why they are almost unharmed.
For children when it comes to the coronavirus and seasonal flu, Sanchez-Pinto says the symptoms aren’t different than any other viral illness that we see, but still, there are red flag parents should pay attention during this time. “Every winter, when kids get sick with the flu or another type of viruses, the symptoms that would alarm any parent will be the same, like breathing fast,” said the expert that along with his medical degree, has a Master’s in Biomedical Informatics and has an interest in data science and predictive analytics in regard to medicine. “The smaller kids will tend to not want to eat because they’re working so hard to breathe that they don’t feel like eating anything. There are also signs of dehydration from not drinking and eating, if they are not going to the bathroom as often to pee, or they’re not using as many diapers, as usual, those things would be all the warning signs for the parents to be concerned about,” he continued adding that “obviously if the breathing is so hard that they’re concerned that they’re not able to breathe on their own the recommendation would be to call 911 or go to the emergency department if it’s very severe.”
Once in the emergency room, any kid having difficulty breathing and other symptoms most likely will get tested for COVID-19. If the result is positive for coronavirus Dr. Sanchez-Pinto says there is nothing to worry about. “The risk of children getting very sick like adults is extremely small. So the likelihood of a normal child without any other medical conditions to get really really sick from COVID-19, is very low,” revealed the expert. “So this normally will run its course just like any other virus. It will take a few days, and obviously recommend the two-week quarantine until the symptoms are gone.”
According to the doctor when the kid is no longer having fever or coughing might be a good sign that the virus has gone and their quarantine period should be over, however, the interactions should be limited. “That’s when the kid will be less contagious, but we should all be staying at home anyway. Even within that time try to minimize the number of people that interact with a child,” he recommends. “The parents should try to keep the siblings in different areas of the house and be very watchful about washing hands, what they’re eating and keep the silverware, the dishware and everything else clean so the parents don’t get infected.” Dr. Sanchez-Pinto also recommends to parents the use of masks to avoid getting infected and if the child is old enough to wear a mask, they can wear it too when they’re interacting with the family.
The doctor also warns parents that although the large majority of kids will recover children who have problems like chronic diseases, particularly lung diseases, have immature lungs or asthma, are at higher risk.
Dr. Sanchez-Pinto revealed to Medical Daily that it is still unclear why death rate and infection rates among younger patients is much lower than middle-aged and older populations. “Well, that is something we don’t know yet why that’s the case,” said the doctor. “There are many theories. Some of the theories are that children are exposed to Coronaviruses all the time. Other types of Coronavirus. This might make them immune to the effects of the coronavirus although that’s not necessarily the reason it’s one of the theories. Another one is based on the way how the immune system in kids works. Which is a little bit different than adults, and it changes over time.” He continued adding that although exist several theories he is going to set those up to be tested.
He also took the opportunity to remind every parent that despite the statistics there is a risk. “About half a percent to 1% of children, so either one in 200 or one in 100 children that get sick will have a severe illness because of the virus and will require to be in the intensive care unit, as far as we know, those are the numbers that we’ve been seeing. It’s not like they’re not going to get sick. Some of them will get sick. The more we do to prevent the spread of the virus, the more that we do to keep the kids safe,” he said.
Despite self-medication could be deadly, the physician thinks that parents can boost their kids immune system with vitamin C and other supplements. “Vitamin C, elderberry, there’s no harm to it, but obviously, you don’t want to overdo things. You have to take and give things as recommended,” said the doctor recommending parents, family members or caregivers to always follow the amounts that are recommended for the age and ask the kid’s pediatrician about what the best brands available in the market. “What we want to avoid is people self-medicating, even with supplements if they overdo it can be harmful. So we have to be very careful about that. Also, there’s a lot of home remedies that contain products that can be also harmful, especially for younger kids. So be very cautious with those. I recommend families to consult with their health care providers or pediatricians before doing any of those things.”
For more information and updates about COVID-19 visit the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).