You may have heard people say, “Children are less susceptible to getting COVID-19. They'll be fine.” But that's not entirely true: Kids can catch the novel coronavirus, and some studies have shown that children older than 10 can be as likely to transmit it as adults.
In this video, Parentalogic hosts Alok Patel and Bethany Van Delft discuss this and more, asking questions about how the coronavirus affects kids’ time at home and at school, and how parents can help stay informed. What are schools doing to protect children? Are the schools able to actually keep children apart? What’s their ventilations situation look like? Can they create physical barriers in the cafeteria? Will the cafeteria even be open?
Given the newness of the coronavirus, scientists are continually hypothesizing, questioning, and trying to figure out its unknowns. Today, experts are sure that social distancing and mask-wearing—by both adults and kids—is critical to managing viral spread and the pandemic. And like adults, children are most likely to present with a fever and a cough, but may experience abdominal pain, body aches, diarrhea, and shortness of breath instead. (If you suspect your child has been exposed to the coronavirus, check in with your doctor or health care provider. In the meantime, have you and your child wear a mask around each other, and, if possible, dedicate a separate bathroom and eating space for your child to limit exposure.)
Of course, mysteries about COVID still abound: One of the greatest unknowns is why younger children tend to handle coronavirus infection less severely than older kids and adults. Alok and Bethany discuss the current theories and what they might mean for kids at home and at school.
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How COVID-19 Affects Kids
Published: September 28, 2020
Alok Patel: So imagine if you have a bunch of kids hanging out together who are not wearing masks, not physically distancing and dont have-
Bethany Van Delft: Picking their noses and eating it.
Alok: And they don't have really bad symptoms! So they don't necessarily know that they're infected. Like this is a recipe for another outbreak that's brought on by the kids.
Some people out there have said, hey, you know, children are less susceptible to getting COVID 19. A: That's not necessarily true. They can absolutely catch this coronavirus.
Kids are most likely to present with a fever and a cough, most likely.
Bethany: Certain groups of kids
Alok: There is a whole other cohort of kids that didn't present with that. They presented with abdominal pain, with body aches, with diarrhea, with shortness of breath.
Bethany: And then there are the kids that don't fall into that broad, broad term, “general.” There are kids who have different underlying health conditions where amongst that group kids, it is a big problem.
Alok: Parents have to be especially aware if their kids have any type of chronic illnesses. We're talking, diabetes, heart disease, cancer.
If they have anything that's kind of compromising their immune system, your kid doesn't necessarily fit in the category that somebody is speaking about when they're talking about the risk to children. It's all individualized.
Bethany: My daughter Lulu is eight and a half. I'd better get that right.
Lulu has Down syndrome
She's very high risk for COVID.
And it's not because of her intellectual developmental disability. It's because of her proclivity to respiratory illness.
Alok: We've already talked about general symptoms of COVID 19 in kids, fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, diarrhea, all these things. We also have to think about your child's potential exposure.
it's never wrong to check in with your doctor or health care provider and say, hey, my child may have been exposed. Should we get a test? What do we do?
Your doctor will tell you if a tele-health visit is best or if you should come and get your child tested.
Studies have shown that kids above the age of 10 can be as likely to transmit the virus as adults are, even if they don't get as severe symptoms
One study even suggests that kids - even kids with very mild symptoms or even none at all! - can carry unusually high number of viral particles -- even as many as might be in a very sick adult
So if your child does have COVID-19, it’s really important to try to protect yourself and anyone else in the household from catching it. It's best to try to have only one person care for the child and to keep everyone else -- including pets -- away as much as possible. If possible, try to have that child use a separate bathroom and eat in separate areas and make sure everyone in the house is washing their hands -- a lot.
And if the child is over 2, both the child and whoever is taking care of the child should wear masks when they are in the same room.
I've heard a lot of questions about PIMS or MISC,
What we suspect it is a post-viral inflammatory state that can target the blood vessels and your kids can present with the usual symptoms of COVID 19. But they can also present with things like shortness of breath, change in skin color, headache, kind of feeling like altered mental status, like they're dizzy. Really bad abdominal pain.
If you notice any of these symptoms in your child, with a fever of 100.4 or more, contact your child's doctor right away and seek emergency care right away if your child is showing any of these emergency warning signs of MIS-C or other concerning signs:
pain or pressure in the chest that doesn’t go away
inability to wake or stay awake
bluish lips or face
severe abdominal pain
Alok: Now take a deep breath and remember that misc, while serious, is treatable. Doctors can provide treatment to reduce the inflammation and protect the heart, kidneys and other organs from lasting damage.
And another thing–
Bethany: There's always one thing with COVID
Alok: Parents should ask about what schools are doing to protect our children.
Alok: To protect their children and their faculty. Are the schools able to actually keep children apart? What’s their ventilation situation look like? Can they create physical barriers in the cafeteria? Will the cafeteria even be open?
Bethany: What is the student population at each school?
My daughter's school is second grade to 12th grade. Yeah it’s a huge range.
High schoolers are doing a really different thing.
And then how do you institute different protocols for different students? It’s so complicated!
Alok: Best-case scenario, everyone is wearing a mask and is six feet apart, at all times. Common spaces are closed, hand-washing and disinfecting is happening all the time and schools are well-ventilated. But remember, not every school district has the same amount of resources and so not every school can implement every single recommendation. And for younger students, students with sensory issues, or students with certain medical diagnoses, wearing a mask could be a real challenge. So schools have to take all of this into account and make a plan.
Bethany: I know I've heard that if anyone presents with symptoms, they will be quarantined. And as in, you know a COVID-suspected area, find out what that area is. Is it the gym or is it like a tiny little closet? Who is going to be with that kid? Is the kid going to be alone? Those are super important questions.
Alok: Or will they be sent home?
Students who develop symptoms at school should be isolated and eventually be sent home, or they should seek medical care depending on their symptoms. And also it’s up to the school to notify people who have been in close contact with that person – contact tracing. And they also have to be really careful about disinfecting anything that child, teacher, whoever is sick, may have come in contact with.
And so I think parents should, unfortunately, be prepared for the rollback in schools to shut down at any point or students to be asked to go home and quarantine or for test results to not come back for two weeks. I'mma throw this chair.
Bethany: Throw a chair at coronavirus.
Alok: In its little spike protein looking like it's all tough.
Scientists are constantly hypothesizing, questioning and trying to figure out all these unknowns about the virus and one of the big unknowns is why is it that a lot of younger children tend to do okay with COVID 19. They don't have as severe symptoms.
And there's a couple of ideas. One of them is that it's possible that these young immune systems are just more primed for dealing with a new infection.
Another one is that it's possible that kids have seen other members of the coronavirus family. Remember, there's four other ones that we see seasonally. It's possible there might be some cross talk in the immune system.
Bethany: Maybe it's because kid’s lung cells are smaller or more slippery. So they just can't they can't latch on.
Alok: Another theory is about genetics and about the receptors in which the coronavirus latches onto. These are called ACE -2 receptors. Some scientists theorize that children have less of these ACE -2 receptors. So the coronavirus has a harder time of latching on and replicating these receptors are more plentiful as humans get older and in different people.
Bethany: So my theory about slippery lung cells in toddlers was kind of right, is what you're saying. Thank you. Thank you. No problem.
Alok: Instead of slippery lung cells, maybe it’s like a rock climbing wall with less ... grips.
Alok: You could do it, it’d just be way harder. And if you put, like, a thousand rock climbers on it, not as many would succeed...
Bethany: I was getting to the rock climber thing. I was on my exploratory path
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Data or data. Data.
Alok: Data? Data.
Bethany: Data? What do you say? Do you say data or data? Leave it in the comments.
Alok: Database. Database.
Bethany: Dude, it’s going to look the same.
Alok: You say database!
Hosted by: Alok Patel and Bethany Van Delft
Producer/Camera: Emily Zendt
Producer/Director: Ari Daniel
Production Assistance: Diego Arenas, Grace Berg, Christina Monnen, Arlo Pérez, Drew Powell
Senior Digital Editor: Sukee Bennett
Rights Manager: Hannah Gotwals
Business Manager: Elisabeth Frele
Managing Producer: Kristine Allington
Coordinating Producer: Elizabeth Benjes
Director of Audience Development: Dante Graves
Director of Public Relations: Jennifer Welsh
Legal and Business Affairs: Susan Rosen and Eric Brass
Director, Business Operations and Finance: Laurie Cahalane
Executive Producers: Julia Cort and Chris Schmidt
Monica Gandhi, PhD and Erica Lee, PhD
Special Thanks: David Condon
Sound Effects: Jickle / freesound / CCBY 3.0
© WGBH Educational Foundation 2020