Protecting Children from COVID-19 Critical for Flattening the Curve

March 24, 2020
Gabrielle Ientile, Assistant Editor
Gabrielle Ientile, Assistant Editor

Pediatricians stress the importance of understanding the effects of COVID-19 on children.

Pediatricians stress the importance of understanding the effects of COVID-19 on children in order to provide accurate depictions of the pandemic and ensure young patients receive necessary care.

“Many infectious diseases affect children differently than adults, and understanding those differences can yield important insights,” Steven L. Zeichner, MD, PhD, the head of UVA Health Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases, and Andrea T. Cruz, MD, MPH, pediatric emergency medicine physician at Houston’s Baylor College of Medicine commented in Pediatrics journal.

Most coronavirus prevention resources focus on outlining protection guidelines based on 2 categories of high risk populations – the elderly, and those who are immunocompromised. Pediatricians are asserting that babies and preschoolers are also among those at highest risk of contracting coronavirus, and that understanding the specific effects of COVID-19 on children can play a “major role” in disease transmission, according to Zeichner and Cruz.

A study found that the virus stayed in children’s stool for several weeks following diagnosis; nasal secretions also contributed to facilitated transmission of COVID-19, and children’s families should take heed of all methods of transmission, even if their children are asymptomatic.

Zeichner stressed that despite the lack of symptoms your child may express, it is imperative to take all necessary precautions, such as social distancing and practicing effective hygiene, and to ensure that your children are taking these precautions as well. Zeichner is currently working on potential novel coronavirus vaccines.

“Studies of the reasons why children are affected differently than adults by the infection may yield insights that can be helpful in understanding the disease and ways to treat or prevent it,” he said.

Karin Nielson, MD, pediatrician and professor in the Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, has also offered guidelines to parents concerning COVID-19.

Nielson explained that asymptomatic children are silent carriers of the virus, and although children who don’t show COVID-19 symptoms are unable to efficiently transmit the virus, that young children in particular have the tendency to put everything in their mouths, and so they do possess the ability to expose other family members to coronavirus that way.

Nielson cited a study from China which suggests that children under the age of 1 are much more susceptible to the virus. She also warned that parents should not bring their children to the hospital, especially the emergency room, if the child is not experiencing severe symptoms. If the child does have COVID-19 symptoms, she suggests seeking telemedicine resources, or to call
their pediatrician instead to confirm the need for a visit before going to their office.

References:

1. COVID-19: how the virus affects children and those around them. UCLA Health website. https://connect.uclahealth.org/2020/03/19/covid-19-how-the-virus-affects-children-and-those-around-them/. Published March 19, 2020. Accessed March 23, 2020.
2. How COVID-19 affects children vital to slowing pandemic, doctors say. University of Virginia Health System website. https://newsroom.uvahealth.com/2020/03/19/how-covid-19-affects-children-vital-to-slowing-pandemic-doctors-say/. Published March 19, 2020. Accessed March 23, 2020.