COVID-19 Resource Center

COVID-19 Resource Center

March 17, 2020
3 min read

Clinical manifestations of COVID-19 appear to be less severe in children

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Newly published study findings showed that children are susceptible to COVID-19, but generally have less severe symptoms than adults.

In a study published in Pediatrics, researchers in China detailed the characteristics of 2,143 pediatric patients — 731 who tested positive for COVID-19 and 1,412 suspected cases.

Approximately 6% of cases were categorized as severe and critical, compared with 18.5% of adult cases. One child, a 14-year-old boy from Hubei province, died.

In the study population, critical cases occurred in 10.6% of infants aged 1 year or younger and were less common in older age groups. More than 90% of all pediatric patients had asymptomatic, mild or moderate cases.

Experts have wondered why the pandemic is occurring mostly among adults. Previous studies have shown no evidence of vertical transmission of the virus that causes COVID-19, SARS-CoV-2, and less severe outcomes among infants hospitalized with the disease.

“There could be a number of reasons,” Bonnie Maldonado, MD, FAAP, chair of the AAP Committee on Infectious Diseases, said in an AAP news release. “It’s possible that the receptor for the virus may not be in the same configuration in children as adults. It’s possible that there were just more adults who were tested because that has been the focus. However, there have been other studies of pregnant women and children who did not have as severe disease.”

According to Maldonado, who was not involved in the study, there are other examples of a virus having an outsized impact on one population. For example, children and pregnant women became sicker from influenza A(H1N1) compared with others.

“I suspect the immune response of children is different,” she said. “Their immune system is young and evolving — [COVID-19] especially seems to be sparing young children.” – by Ken Downey Jr.

Disclosures: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.