For children and adolescents under 18, effects of coronavirus are generally mild, and fatalities are rare, European researchers reported Thursday.
Only four children died out of 582 in the study, which was conducted at the height of the pandemic in Europe, the researchers reported in the journal Lancet Child and Adolescent Health. Only 8% required intensive care.
The study affirms what doctors have been finding: children are far less likely than adults to suffer serious effects of coronavirus. But children were not completely spared. While only 4% of the children needed ventilators to help them breathe, some required ventilation for a month.
Children under the age of one month and those with preexisting health issues were more likely to require intensive care. Some of them had more than one infection and 24% of those with additional respiratory infections such as cold or flu viruses required intensive care. Only 7% of children without co-infections required intensive care.
“This could have important implications for the upcoming winter season, when cold and flu infections will be more common,” said Dr. Begoña Santiago-Garcia of University Hospital Gregorio Marañón in Madrid, Spain, who worked on the study.
Because the participants included only patients who sought medical help and had been tested for coronavirus, researchers noted that the study skewed towards more severe cases than reflected in the general population.
“Overall, the vast majority of young people experience only mild disease,” said Dr. Marc Tebruegge of the Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health in London, who helped lead the study. “Nevertheless, a notable number of children do develop severe disease and require intensive care support, and this should be accounted for when planning and prioritizing healthcare resources as the pandemic progresses.”
The study noted that research on treatment for children, including antiviral and immunomodulatory drugs, is urgently needed.
The most common symptom reported was fever, while about 16% of participants had no symptoms at all.