Diarrhea, vomiting and stomach pain should be considered official symptoms of Covid-19 in children, scientists say.
The symptoms, which are not among the three listed by the NHS, have also been shown to be relatively common in adults.
Officials, however, said they were too vague and the system would be overwhelmed with worried people if everyone with an upset stomach thought they had Covid-19.
Scientists in Northern Ireland say signs related to the gut are so strongly linked to disease in children that they should be taken into account.
But coughing – one of the main symptoms in adults who become seriously ill – was not a reliable indicator of whether or not a child has coronavirus, they said.
The ability to detect children with coronavirus increased from 76% to 97% when stomach and bowel pain were included in official NHS symptoms, researchers found (stock image)
“NO HEALTHY CHILDREN HAVE DIE FROM COVID-19 IN BRITTANY”
Healthy children do not die from the coronavirus and only those who were seriously ill before contracting the disease are at risk, a large government-funded study has confirmed.
No healthy child has died from the virus yet in the UK, researchers said.
Six children died but all had other serious health problems such as cancer or cerebral palsy when they were struck down by Covid-19.
Research has found that the risk to children is “surprisingly low”, only a tiny fraction of them end up in hospital, and deaths are “exceptionally rare”.
Six children under 15 have died from the coronavirus in England and Wales since the start of the pandemic, along with nine young people aged 15 to 19. That compares to 52,082 victims in all other age groups through August 14, according to the Bureau of National Statistics.
Scientists led by the University of Liverpool found that 1% of hospitalized children died, compared to a significantly higher 27% of adults. This means that while one in four adults who ended up in hospital with Covid-19 died from it, only one in 100 children did.
The research, published in the prestigious British Medical Journal, comes amid a heated debate over whether children in England should go back to school in September, with critics claiming there is not enough proof that they will be safe.
Parents need to be reassured that their children will not be put at risk by returning to school, said the scientists who conducted the study.
Professor Calum Semple, an expert in epidemic medicine and child health at the University of Liverpool who led the study, said: “Serious illnesses are rare and death is extremely rare.
“They need to be convinced that their children will not be directly harmed by going back to school and we know they are harmed by being kept away from school due to lack of educational opportunities, and that affects mental health. ‘
Dr Tom Waterfield of Queen’s University Belfast told the BBC: ‘We find that diarrhea and vomiting is a symptom reported by some children and I think adding it to the list of known symptoms is worth it. to be considered. “
Dr Waterfield and his colleagues studied 992 children, 68 of whom had coronavirus. They were on average 10 years old.
Counting gastrointestinal symptoms – those affecting the stomach and intestines – would have dramatically improved the number of children who can be diagnosed.
One of the key decisions that health officials must make when deciding what an official symptom is is how many people with that symptom will actually have the disease and how many will have something else.
They should also take into account that the majority of people with the disease – in this case Covid-19 – can be found without including the symptom.
Only 34 of the children with coronavirus in the study by the Northern Irish researchers had symptoms.
By examining children with fever, cough, and changes in smell or taste – the official symptoms of Covid-19 – scientists correctly identified 76% of children with coronavirus.
When they added the kids who had stomach issues, however, that figure jumped to 97% – 33 out of 34.
Since so many children did not have symptoms and many of those did not, experts said most of them would never be diagnosed.
Dr Waterfield and colleagues wrote: ‘This study shows that around half of children are asymptomatic when infected with SARS-CoV-2 and current screening strategies in the UK will not be able to diagnose the majority of pediatric infections.
Stomach and intestinal symptoms were reported in 13 of the children, compared to 21 who had a fever – fever was the most common sign.
By comparison, only six children lost their sense of smell or taste, which is listed as an official symptom by the NHS.
The British health service has been criticized for having too narrow a definition of the virus.
In America, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lists 11 symptoms and someone with any of them can get tested.
Official policy in Britain is that, among members of the public, only those with one of the three main symptoms should be tested.
The Queen’s University team posted their work on the pre-printed medRxiv website without review by other scientists.