Are Children Less Likely to Get COVID-19?

Reviewed on 11/2/2021

Children have reduced COVID-19 infection rates and a significantly lower risk for developing severe coronavirus disease 2019 compared with adults. There are rare cases of children and babies with severe   COVID-19 complications, but the virus generally poses a lower risk to young children.
Children have reduced COVID-19 infection rates and a significantly lower risk for developing severe coronavirus disease 2019 compared with adults. There are rare cases of children and babies with severe COVID-19 complications, but the virus generally poses a lower risk to young children.

COVID-19 is a novel (new) coronavirus, one not previously identified in humans, responsible for an outbreak of respiratory illness that became a global pandemic in 2020. COVID-19 is different from other coronaviruses that cause mild illness, such as the common cold.

Do Children Experience Severe COVID-19 Symptoms?

Children have reduced COVID-19 infection rates and a significantly lower risk for developing severe coronavirus disease 2019 compared with adults. 

  • In rare cases, children and babies can experience dangerous complications from COVID-19, but in general, the virus poses lower risk to young children.
  • It is not completely understood why this is the case, but children may have an increased ability to control SARS-CoV-2 infection.
  • One study found that children's immune cells in their noses can more quickly detect SARS-Cov-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, than the corresponding cells in adults and thus their immune systems can more quickly take action to ward off the virus. 

What Are Symptoms of COVID-19?

The most common symptoms of COVID-19 appear about 2 to 14 days after exposure and include:

Other symptoms of COVID-19 may include: 

  • Altered sense of taste and/or smell
  • Fatigue
  • Diarrhea
  • Body aches
  • Nausea
  • Feeling unwell (malaise)
  • Loss of appetite
  • Congestion

Emergency warning signs that require immediate medical attention (call 911 or go to a hospital’s emergency department): 

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Bluish lips or face
  • Rash or blisters on skin or in mouth and on lips
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
  • New confusion 
  • Inability to wake or stay awake

How Is COVID-19 Diagnosed?

COVID-19 is diagnosed with a physical examination to check if patients have any of the hallmark symptoms of COVID-19, and a patient history which includes whether the patient had any known recent exposure to the virus. 

If COVID-19 is suspected tests used to diagnose the virus include: 

  • PCR tests (genetic or molecular test) 
    • Results can take hours to up to one week
    • More accurate than an antigen test
  • Antigen test
    • Results are available in less than one hour
    • Less accurate than a PCR test

An antibody test may be used to determine if a person had a past COVID-19 infection, but it is not used to diagnose current infections because it takes up to 3 weeks following infection for the body to produce antibodies to the virus. 

What Is the Treatment for COVID-19?

There is no specific treatment for COVID-19, and supportive care is aimed at relieving symptoms in mild cases. 

Patients with mild illness are usually advised to remain home and self-isolate for 14 days to avoid spreading the virus. Mild COVID-19 symptoms can be treated at home and may include:

Casirivimab/imdevimab (Regen-COV), a monoclonal antibody combination, has received Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat mild-to-moderate COVID-19 in adult and pediatric patients 12 years and older who are at high risk for progressing to severe COVID-19 and/or hospitalization.

The monoclonal antibody bamlanivimab is no longer used because it is not effective against the Delta strain of the coronavirus. 

Monoclonal antibodies are not indicated for use in severe cases.

More severe COVID-19 cases may require hospitalization and treatments may include:

  • Corticosteroids 
  • Immunotherapy 
    • Convalescent plasma
    • Immunoglobulin products
    • Interleukin inhibitors
    • Interferons
    • Kinase inhibitors
  • Antiviral therapy with remdesivir 
  • Antithrombotic therapy: anticoagulants and antiplatelet therapy 
  • High-flow nasal cannula (HFNC) oxygen 
  • Ventilation 

Studies on hydroxychloroquine have shown it to be ineffective in treating COVID-19, with a high risk of fatal heart arrhythmias. Hydroxychloroquine is not recommended to treat COVID-19. 

Current guidelines neither recommend nor advise against the use of vitamin C, vitamin D, or zinc for COVID-19. Zinc should not be taken in doses above the recommended daily allowance (RDA) due to the risk of toxicity.

How Do You Prevent COVID-19?

The best way to prevent infection with the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 is vaccination. 

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends all eligible individuals be vaccinated against the virus that causes COVID-19. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved one vaccine for the prevention of COVID-19: 

  • Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine 
    • Full FDA approval for use in individuals 16 years and older
    • Emergency use authorization (EUA) for individuals 5 years and older
    • Requires 2 shots administered 3 weeks apart

Two additional vaccines have emergency use authorizations (EUAs) for use to prevent coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2): 

  • Moderna COVID-19 vaccine 
    • May be given to individuals 18 years and older
    • Requires 2 shots administered 4 weeks apart
  • Johnson & Johnson (Janssen)
    • May be given to individuals 18 years and older
    • Requires just one injection 

Certain groups of people who received a Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine are eligible for a booster shot at 6 months or more after their initial series:

  • 65 years and older
  • Age 18 years and older who live in long-term care settings
  • Age 18 years and older who have underlying medical conditions
  • Age 18 years and older who work in high-risk settings
  • Age 18 years and older who live in high-risk settings

For people who got the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine, booster shots are also recommended for individuals 18 years and older and who were vaccinated two or more months ago.

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Reviewed on 11/2/2021
References
Image Source: iStock Images

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html

https://www.covid19treatmentguidelines.nih.gov/

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/different-vaccines.html

https://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2021/10/29/1050465159/covids-endgame-scientists-have-a-clue-about-where-sars-cov-2-is-headed

https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2021/p1021-covid-booster.html

https://www.fda.gov/news-events/press-announcements/fda-authorizes-pfizer-biontech-covid-19-vaccine-emergency-use-children-5-through-11-years-age

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41587-021-01037-9?ltclid=