Parents need to be “reassured” Covid-19 has caused the deaths of otherwise healthy schoolchildren in the UK, researchers say.
The risk for children of needing hospital treatment for the coronavirus is “minimal” and critical care “even tinier,” they say.
However, black children, those who are obese, and very young babies have a slightly higher risk.
The BMJ study looked at 651 children with coronavirus in hospitals in England, Wales and Scotland.
It covers two-thirds of all child admissions to the UK due to Covid-19 between January and July and confirms what is already known about the virus’s minimal effects on children.
According to the study, 1% of those 651 children and youth (six in total) died in hospital with Covid-19, compared to 27% in all other age groups.
Only 18% needed intensive care.
And the six people who died had “deep” underlying health issues that had often been complex and themselves life-limiting.
Children with such conditions remain vulnerable to the virus and should take precautions, the researchers said.
But for others, the risk was extremely low.
“There were no deaths among otherwise healthy school-age children,” said study author Professor Calum Semple of the University of Liverpool.
“There is no direct prejudice to the resumption of studies by the children,” he added.
Co-author Dr Olivia Swann, of the Royal Hospital for Sick Children, Edinburgh, said she hoped the results would be “extremely reassuring for parents in the UK”.
The most common symptoms in children admitted to hospital were fever, cough, nausea or vomiting, and shortness of breath.
Older children were more likely to have an upset stomach, headache and sore throat.
Of the 651 children in the study, 42% had an underlying health problem – the most common being diseases affecting the brain and nervous system (11%), cancer (8%), and asthma (7 %).
But asthma – unlike obesity – hasn’t made children more likely to need intensive care.
Of the 651 children, 52 were also diagnosed with coronavirus-related multisystem inflammatory syndrome, with the first case being seen by doctors in mid-March.
These 52 – none of whom died – were more likely than others to be older, around 10, and from ethnic minorities.
And they were five times more likely to be admitted to intensive care, where they responded well to treatment.
Based on their study, the definition of this syndrome could now be broadened to include symptoms such as fatigue, headaches, sore throats and muscle pain, the researchers said, in addition to symptoms already listed. by the World Health Organization.
Dr Liz Whittaker, of Imperial College London, said the findings echoed other studies on Covid-19 in children.
“A very small number of children have been admitted to intensive care and researchers have reported a very low death rate – especially compared to adults but also compared to the death rate from other infections, influenza, chickenpox , meningitis, group A -strep[tococcus] sepsis et cetera, and other causes of childhood death – for example, traffic accidents), ”she said.
The fact that black children are more frequently affected by the very rare inflammatory syndrome “reflects the higher incidence of coronavirus infection in these communities,” added Dr Whittaker.