- COVID-19 generally causes respiratory symptoms
- They tend to be milder in children
- Variants of coronavirus have not been found to cause more severe disease
We do hear a lot about COVID-19 and its symptoms. A recent study, for example, found that loss of smell might be the best indicator of the disease. Two researches hinted at this conclusion. The findings have been published in journal Chemical Senses. Other common symptoms of COVID-19 include dry cough, fever, breathlessness, loss of taste, aches and pains, sore throat and headache amongst others. But, how does the disease impact children? Are they very different, especially in the very young ones? Explaining this is Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, Technical Lead, COVID-19, World Health Organization, on its recent IGTV.
Are symptoms of COVID-19 different in children?
There are different types of disease presentation, based on the age of the person who is infected by SARS-CoV-2 virus, the virus which causes COVID-19. Luckily children and adolescents tend to have more mild disease, as compared to adults, informs Dr Kerkhove.
Most people who are infected with SARS-CoV-2 virus have respiratory symptoms. They start to feel unwell. They get fever, cough or a sore throat or a sneeze. Some individuals may have gastrointestinal symptoms. Others may lose sense of smell or taste.
"Symptoms tend to be milder in younger children. They don't have as many symptoms as adults do. Some children may have gastrointestinal symptoms like diarrhoea or vomiting, but tend to be more mild," Dr Kerkhove asserts.
Most children tend to have asymptomatic infection, which means they don't have any symptoms at all, she adds.
How do the variants of the virus affect children?
Virus variants mean changes in the virus, which are now being detected by scientists over time. Many of these changes do not have any impact on the virus, in terms of its ability to transmit or the disease that it causes, says Dr Kerkhove.
But some variants are called variants of concern. These viruses need more study. Scientists are looking at the way virus transmits and the disease that it causes. "So far, these variants do not tend to cause more severe disease across any age group. The disease presentation looks the same and the severity looks the same as other SARS-CoV-2 virus circulating," Dr Kerkhove informs.
In terms of transmission, the virus variant that was identified in the United Kingdom, they noticed an increase in transmissibility across all age groups, including younger children. "In the areas where this virus variant was circulating, schools were open. The virus circulated amongst students and faculties. Studies are still underway with these virus variants. The studies in the UK do not indicate that the virus specifically targets young children."
This means that the variants of the virus are not infecting children more than it would be likely of other viruses that are circulating in the area.
How to keep children safe?
Prevention is the best way to keep children safe.
- Make sure children have clean hands and they wash their hands appropriately with soap and water, or they use an alcohol-based hand rub or sanitiser.
- In addition, parents need to ensure that kids practice respiratory etiquette where they sneeze or cough into their elbow.
- If they are age appropriate, then even children should follow the local guidance of wearing a mask. With clean hands, make sure that the mask is put on over ears. That it covers ears, nose and mouth.
- Children need to be told that they should not touch the outside layer of the mask. That they should clean their hands when taking off the mask as well.
- Parents should try and answer all of the questions regarding COVID-19 in order to alleviate their fear and make sure they get all information from them.
- Teach them about physical distancing, outside of your immediate family.
Disclaimer: This content including advice provides generic information only. It is in no way a substitute for qualified medical opinion. Always consult a specialist or your own doctor for more information. NDTV does not claim responsibility for this information.