Study identifies COVID-19 risk factors for children
Study identifies COVID-19 risk factors for children

Study identifies COVID-19 risk factors for children

Researchers reviewed data from more than one million children tested for COVID-19, and thousands admitted from March 2020 to September 2021.

AURORA, Colorado – A new study published in Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) looks at the risk factors that put children at risk for serious complications from COVID-19. These risk factors include a child’s age, race, gender, and other health conditions.

A Colorado physician involved in the research hopes this will help physicians better treat future pediatric patients.

“What we wanted to understand better was how can we predict which of these children would end up in the intensive care unit and get really sick so we could be more aggressive with their treatment beforehand,” said Dr. Blake Martin, a pediatrician and associate professor at the CU School of Medicine.

Dr. Martin said rapplicants reviewed data from more than 1 million children, 18 years and younger, who were tested for COVID-19 between March 2020 and September 2021. Of those tested, about 167,000 tested positive for COVID-19, and about 10,000 were admitted.

“What we found was a lot of different independent risk factors associated with these children needing intensive care,” said Dr. Martin. “And it was: male gender, age over 12, black or African American race, obesity and a lot of different complex, chronic medical conditions – especially children who have a history of cardiovascular disease, cancer, kidney problems, respiratory disease – it was the children who were most at risk of serious illness during their hospital visits. “

Some of these risk factors for more serious disease from COVID-19 or differences between breeds have also been noticed in the adult population.

“While it was not surprising, it is something that definitely deserves a lot of attention,” said Dr. Martin.

“And the purpose of our study was to point out these individual risk factors so that researchers, including our team, can now take a closer look – well why is this happening? Are there differences in access to healthcare? Are there environmental and genetic factors at play? So we can improve the performance of these groups. “

One of the COVID complications that some children develop is multisystem inflammatory syndrome or MIS-C, which occurs a few weeks after a child is first diagnosed with COVID-19. Of the approximately 10,000 children hospitalized with the virus, Dr. Martin that only about 700 developed MIS-C.

“These children are, on average, ‘sicker’ than children who have traditional COVID-19,” he said. “16% of them end up needing a ventilator. Over a quarter of them end up needing medication due to impaired heart function or to keep their blood pressure up. This is a condition that is really scary and really dangerous.”

He said the children who tend to develop MIS-C tend to be younger and otherwise healthy and not part of the population of patients who already have a medical condition before their COVID diagnosis.

“I think [this study] points out that although children generally do quite well with COVID-19 infections, there is a group that is at very high risk of becoming really ill or dying. “

The data in this study only represent hospital admissions up to and including September 2021, which means that they do not include information on children’s response to the omicron variant. This variant led to the highest number of admissions among children during the pandemic in January.

Dr. Martin shared a publicly available dashboard which shares updated information on pediatric cases of COVID.

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