Children face risk for severe complications and death from COVID-19
Children, teens, and young adults are at greater risk for severe complications from COVID-19 than previously thought and those with underlying health conditions are at even greater risk, according to a new study.
The study, published in JAMA Pediatrics, is the first to describe the characteristics of seriously ill pediatric COVID-19 patients in North America.
“The idea that COVID-19 is sparing of young people is just false,” said study coauthor Lawrence C. Kleinman, professor and vice chair for academic development and chief of the Department of Pediatrics’ Division of Population Health, Quality and Implementation Science at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. “While children are more likely to get very sick if they have other chronic conditions, including obesity, it is important to note that children without chronic illness are also at risk of serious illness or death. Parents need to continue to take the virus seriously.”
The study followed 48 children and young adults—from newborns to 21 years old—who were admitted to pediatric intensive care units (PICUs) in the United States and Canada for COVID-19 in March and April. More than 80% had chronic underlying conditions, such as immune suppression, obesity, diabetes, seizures, or chronic lung disease. Of those, 40% depended on technological support due to developmental delays or genetic anomalies.
More than 20% experienced failure of two or more organ systems due to COVID-19, and nearly 40% required a breathing tube and ventilator. At the end of the follow-up period, nearly 33% of the children were still hospitalized due to COVID-19, with three still requiring ventilator support and one on life support. Two of the children admitted during the three-week study period died.
Weird Ailment Affecting Kids
The list of things that Covid-19 does to the body grows ever longer. From cytokine storms, the neurological ailments, to the swollen-up toes, it’s all rather confusing, frightening, and yes, decidedly weird. The most recent oddity concerns how it affects
kids with COVID-19. Kids have been showing up in hospitals with nagging fevers, rashes, bloodshot eyes, and other signs of an immune system going haywire. Many of the cases have even awoken a rare, ailment called Kawasaki disease—an inflammatory illness that affects young children. In some cases, if the inflammation is not identified or treatment has not been received in time, Kawasaki disease can cause aneurysms in arteries around the heart that could result in long-term cardiac damage.
Other patients have had other severe symptoms, like low blood pressure and abdominal pain, requiring intensive care. Those cases are being called by a different name: pediatric inflammatory multisystem syndrome, or PIMS. The scale of those complications is still emerging. At last count (mid May 2020), these immune conditions have been reported in more than 100 kids in the New York area, three of whom have died. France and the United Kingdom each reported a single death. The Lancet, reported in May that researchers at hospitals in northern Italy identified the strongest link yet between the syndrome and COVID-19 infection, reporting ten cases of Kawasaki-like illness over a two-week period, a 30-fold increase over the norm, with most patients testing positive for a current or past SARS-CoV-2 viral infection.