‘Reassuring’ study of children’s ‘tiny’ risk

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Parents should be “reassured” Covid-19 has not caused the deaths of any otherwise healthy schoolchildren in the UK, researchers say. Children's risk of needing hospital treatment for coronavirus is “tiny” 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 children's admissions in the UK due to Covid-19 between January and July and confirms what is already known about the minimal effects of the virus on children. A “strikingly low” 1% of these 651 children and young people – six in total – had died in hospital with Covid-19 compared with 27% across all other age groups, the study found. Eighteen per cent of the children needed intensive care. And the six who had died had had “profound” underlying health conditions that had often been complex and themselves life-limiting. Children with such conditions remained vulnerable to the virus and must take precautions, the researchers said.But for others, the risk was extremely low.

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“There have been no deaths in otherwise healthy school-age children,” said study author Prof Calum Semple, from the University of Liverpool. “There is no direct harm from children going back to school,” he added. Co-author Dr Olivia Swann, from the Royal Hospital for Sick Children, in Edinburgh, said she hoped the findings would be “extremely reassuring for parents across the UK”. The most common symptoms in children admitted to hospital were a fever, cough, nausea or vomiting and shortness of breath. Older children were more likely to have stomach pain, headache and a sore throat. Of the 651 children in the study, 42% had an underlying health condition – the most common ones being illnesses affecting the brain and nervous system (11%), cancer (8%) and asthma (7%).

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