Although death from COVID-19 is uncommon among children and adolescents, a study of 30-day outcomes in younger patients found the illness produced more symptoms and complications than seasonal influenza. Published in Pediatrics, the study also found significant variation in treatment of children and adolescents hospitalized with COVID-19.
The most common 30-day complications found in youths hospitalized with COVID-19 were hypoxemia and pneumonia. Both of these conditions occurred at a higher rate among children and adolescents with COVID-19 than pediatric patients hospitalized with influenza, according to the investigators.
The current study used real-world observational data from more than 242,000 children and adolescents diagnosed with COVID-19, including nearly 10,000 who were hospitalized, and compared to data from more than 2,000,000 young patients diagnosed with influenza across 5 countries. The researchers found that there was a higher prevalence of rare conditions like congenital malformations, neurodevelopmental disorders, and heart disease, among those hospitalized with COVID-19.
Pediatric patients with COVID-19 were also more likely to present with labored breathing, loss of smell, and gastrointestinal symptoms than those with influenza. These are symptoms that help improve early diagnosis of COVID-19 among children and adolescents. Asthma and obesity were the most common baseline comorbidities.
“This study addressed critical questions that were weighing down on both the health care community and the general population—how was COVID-19 impacting our youngest population,” said Talita Duarte-Salles, PhD, an epidemiologist at IDIAP Jordi Gol in Barcelona, Spain, in a press release. “While some last year claimed that COVID-19 was no different than the flu, the real-world evidence we generated through open science showed something quite different. It was a relief to see that fatality was rare, but clearly both complications and symptoms showed the COVID-19 was no flu in children and adolescents.”
The most common treatment options in children and adolescents with COVID-19 were adjunctive therapies, though the exact therapy used varied considerably. Systemic corticosteroids and famotidine were most common, according to the study.
In youth, COVID-19 causes more complications than flu; fatality is rate [news release]. EurekAlert; June 7, 2021. Accessed June 9, 2021. https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2021-06/cuim-iyc060721.php