Children and teenagers are less likely than adults to develop severe COVID-19 or die from the disease.
This is according to the world’s largest study of hospital patients with COVID-19. Obesity, Black ethnicity and being under one month old are factors that increased the risk of a child being admitted into intensive care with the condition, the report reveals.
The findings also identify new symptoms of a severe inflammation syndrome that significantly increases the risk of children with COVID-19 needing intensive care. Researchers are calling for the WHO’s definition of this syndrome – Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C) – to be updated to help doctors identify more children with the condition and improve their treatment.
The team, led by researchers from the Universities of Edinburgh and Liverpool, Imperial College London and the Royal Hospital for Children, Glasgow, recruited 651 children and young people aged 19 years or younger who had been admitted to hospital with COVID-19.
Largest hospital study
The study is led by ISARIC4C – a global group of clinicians working to prevent death from respiratory disease – and involved 138 hospitals across England, Wales and Scotland. The ISARIC4C COVID-19 study includes two thirds of all people admitted to hospital with the disease.
The findings suggest that it is rare for young people to end up in hospital with COVID-19. They make up less than one per cent of participants in the ISARIC study. The research is published today in the British Medical Journal.
Dr Olivia Swann, lead author and Clinical Lecturer in Paediatric Infectious Diseases at the University of Edinburgh, said: “Researchers often want to call attention to large numbers of patients in their studies, however, we want to highlight that children made up only a fraction of a percent of all COVID-19 admissions across the UK in our study and that severe disease was rare.”
Professor Peter Openshaw, from the National Heart & Lung Institute at Imperial, said: “By using data from the majority of COVID-19 hospital cases we can reveal just how rarely the disease is serious or fatal for children. This should be reassuring, but will also need to be closely monitored as children return to school.”
This study is supported by NIHR Imperial BRC.
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