The Science of COVID and How It Affects Children

When the COVID-19 pandemic first hit the United States in March of 2020, it appeared as if kids were not really affected by the disease. Many news outlets and even President Donald Trump reported that kids contracted COVID in such low numbers that they were thought to be virtually immune to it. While that was later proven to be untrue—many parents around the country still believe this misinformation. 

In the beginning, COVID cases in children accounted for only 7% of the total cases in the United States and less than 1% of COVID-related deaths.

Fast forward to today and those numbers have skyrocketed due to the highly contagious Delta variant. In fact, COVID cases in children now account for 22% of the total cases in the United States, but fortunately they still represent less than 1% of COVID-related deaths.

While the very low mortality rate in children is certainly good news, there are many serious complications that your child is at risk for.

Contagious – It’s now well reported that children and teens can spread COVID-19. So doctors and scientists around the world are urging parents to have children wear masks in crowded places, especially indoors, and to social distance to try to stop the spread.

Even if your child is fortunate enough to have either no symptoms or mild symptoms, they can still pass the virus to people who are significantly more vulnerable, like parents, grandparents or other family members.

COVID Long Haulers – We know that kids can experience lasting symptoms of COVID long after infection. These long lasting symptoms can include persistent shortness of breath, depression, anxiety, crippling fatigue, and lack of smell and taste.

MIS-C stands for multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children and while rare, it can happen long after they’ve been exposed to COVID. With MIS-C, dangerous inflammation occurs in certain body parts such as the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes, and gastrointestinal organs.  Since there is no known cause of MIS-C, doctors have no way of predicting why certain kids get it while others don’t.

Besides organ damage and blood clotting issues, MIS-C can lead to the need for amputation of limbs. A young boy in Michigan had to have all four of his limbs amputated after a severe case of MIS-C.

Hospitalization rates for children have begun to soar in the past few months. At this time, there are more than 1,900 kids in pediatric ICUs around the country with many of them needing intubation. The majority of hospitalized kids are unvaccinated and they account for roughly 3.6% of total hospitalizations.

Vaccinations – Getting kids and teens vaccinated as soon as possible will alleviate many of these issues. At this time, the Pfizer vaccines are available for children 12 and up. Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson and Johnson are currently conducting trials for children under 12. And the hope is that one or all of the vaccines will be approved by late fall of 2021 or early spring of 2022. This data all leads to ensuring the safety of children.  Schools should be considering and doing virtual education.  Virtual education can be as powerful as in-person if the right technology is used and preparation for virtual is done.