Although there are notable exceptions, most evidence suggests that infection with the new type of coronavirus is less dangerous for children than for adults and infants. In other words, while COVID-19 tends to be less severe in older children, this protection does not extend to babies, who may be as vulnerable to this disease as adults.
Knowing the symptoms of COVID-19 in children, regardless of their age, can help parents identify warning signals and seek optimal care and early treatment.
This article shows the symptoms that can be caused by SARS-CoV-2 virus infection in children so that it can be detected as soon as possible. Also, some potential complications are presented, but also when the visit to the doctor is necessary.
CoVID-19 symptomatology in children
Health experts are investigating how SARS-CoV-2 virus infection affects children. So far it has been established that the risk of severe illness is lower in children than in adults, but this should not be a reason to let your guard down.
In addition, current evidence suggests most children with COVID-19, regardless of age, will have mild symptoms similar to those of a cold. However, there may be cases in which the little ones may be asymptomatic or may develop manifestations that will indicate admission to intensive care units.
Although most adults report fever in the case of COVID-19 infection, this manifestation is less common among children. In addition to fever, children may experience coughing, breathing difficulties, rhinorrhea and sore throat. However, these symptoms are also rarer in children than in adults. In addition, there may also be loss of taste and smell, as well as digestive symptoms, such as vomiting, diarrhoea or nausea.
Children with COVID-19 may also develop muscle or head pain, as well as behavioural changes. Thus, it can be observed that the little ones will cry more often and will have an altered mood. Anxiety can be present, especially if the child understands that COVID-19 infection can be dangerous.
Regarding the symptomatology of COVID-19 in babies, it is also characterized by the manifestations of an infection of the upper respiratory tract. Thus, coughing, fever, sore throat, rhinorrhea and sneezing may also be present in this case. Also, muscle aches can cause frequent crying and sleep disturbances. In addition, pain and fever can cause digestive problems such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea and stomach pain.
The mood and the usual behaviors can be changed. Loss of olfactory sense cannot be expressed by the little ones verbally but can be manifested by changing eating habits. Mild pneumonia can be revealed by dry cough, tachycardia and dyspnoea. Babies who develop more serious symptoms usually do so within a week of mild symptoms.
Severe manifestations are cyanosis, tachycardia, oxygen saturation less than 92%, severe organic insufficiency. The severity of these symptoms can progress rapidly, so careful monitoring is essential.
Children with comorbidities, e.g. lung disease, heart disease or immunodepression, are more likely to develop serious complications associated with infection with the new type of coronavirus. Despite these complications, specialists suggest that the risk of death due to COVID-19 in children is very low.
Among the potential complications that can occur in children are organ failure, severe dyspnea and the need for artificial ventilation, sepsis, heart failure and coagulation disorders. Skin rashes, stomach pain, hematemesis and diarrhoea may also be present. Emergency medical assistance is necessary when children are confused and have a fever, sore throat, dyspnoea, cyanosis, lipotimia and feeling of pressure or chest pain.
When is a doctor’s visit indicated?
Most children will not develop symptoms or they will be mild to moderate. Thus, most of the time, children will not end up being admitted or tested for COVID-19.
However, parents should notify their doctor if their children show symptoms characteristic of SARS-CoV-2 virus infection. Also, the doctor should be informed when the child seems very ill, when he develops rashes, when the symptoms improve and then worsen again, etc. It is important that the doctor is notified by phone, as physical contact raises the risks. Any symptom associated with COVID-19 infection should be a sign of alarm and must come with even stricter social isolation.
Children should be urgently consulted when they have breathing problems, indicating respiratory distress. Some examples of such symptoms are represented by dyspnoea, cyanosis and tachypnea. Confusion, lethargy and feeling of pressure or pain in the upper chest are other symptoms that should be sent to the doctor.
In the case of babies, parents need to be much more careful, as they cannot express the difficulties they encounter. Thus, any signs of respiratory distress or alteration of organ functions, e.g. arrhythmias and anuria, should be observed. Skin rashes, changes in consciousness, excessive sleepiness, confusion, lethargic behavior and inability to eat are other manifestations that should point to seeking medical help.
At the moment there are no known drugs to cure people with COVID-19, and current treatments are aimed more at relieving symptoms. Research is in full swing to obtain curative treatment, but it is estimated that a fairly long period of time is still needed. However, most children will heal and have a good evolution, especially if certain indications are followed.
For example, children should be encouraged to rest and should consume plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration. They should also be checked constantly and the doctor should be informed of their condition. Depending on the evolution, doctors may prescribe medicines that reduce fever or pain or relieve unpleasant symptoms.
Although most children have a favorable evolution, it should be known that there may be serious cases. Thus, doctors may indicate the administration of oxygen, intravenous fluids or steroid-based drugs. In very rare cases, children may require fans to breathe properly.
Most children who develop COVID-19 will make light forms. However, COVID-19 is a potentially dangerous condition for babies, although most will recover without serious complications. Thus, this period can be even more difficult for parents and can cause anxiety and worry.
Surveillance of young children is very important, and any symptoms characteristic of SARS-CoV-2 virus infection should point to the discussion with the doctor. It can properly assess the situation and provide the best advice.