By Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Health
Dr. Michael Bolton, a pediatric specialist in infectious disease, has a message for anyone who still believes children aren’t vulnerable to the new coronavirus or the disease it causes, Covid-19.
“Kids can certainly get coronavirus,” Dr. Bolton says.
As of noon on Monday, April 6, no fewer than 126 Louisiana children had caught the virus, which was more than double the number just three days earlier, with one fatality reported.
“The fortunate thing about kids is it appears it doesn’t cause as severe disease as in adults, but we don’t know why that is,” Dr. Bolton says.
There are far fewer total cases among kids, which is a good thing for kids. But it means far less is known about how the disease may behave, spread and affect children. And what information there is tends to be incomplete at best, or contradictory at worst.
“In kids Covid-19 can look more like a cold than respiratory illness, and in some kids it’s a gastrointestinal disease with more stomach upset and diarrhea,” Dr. Bolton says.
In one report from China, more than half of kids who tested positive for the disease didn’t develop fever, which makes screening for and picking up those cases more difficult. As a result, some children unknowingly carry the disease and may infect others without knowing it.
“It’s still so uncommon we don’t know why kids have less severe outcomes,” Dr. Bolton says. One study of cases in China found that children younger than 12 months old are more likely to have severe disease than older kids, but the numbers were still too low to provide a more complete picture. Also, there are little or no data available on Covid-19 cases among American children.
Dr. Bolton said in China there were few pediatric patients in the first wave, but then when the country required people to limit movement outside their home there was an increase in the number of children who caught the virus.
Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Health, the statewide clinical network whose hub is Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Hospital in Baton Rouge, is taking no chances. Patients and parents arriving for appointments at the hospital and clinics around the state are screened for symptoms before entering, and anyone even suspected of being sick is given a mask.
“Kids aren’t out of the woods by any means,” Dr. Bolton says. “It’s important for us to take advantage of what’s been learned in other cities and countries, which includes knowing there is probably going to be a little more of a spike in kids.”
There are still plenty of things parents and communities can do to keep children safe and happy, including:
• Use Facetime and other technology to enable your kids to have occasional visits with their friends.
• Take advantage of additional time you have with your kids. Plan fun activities like family game night, or taking short drives to get out of the house without getting out of the car.
• Establish routines and habits so the unusual becomes more familiar.
To find out more about how Covid-19 affects children, visit Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Health here.