More than a third of children who contract coronavirus are asymptomatic, a new study suggests.
Researchers found that about 36% of children did not have classic symptoms of COVID-19 such as cough, fever or shortness of breath.
Additionally, while the most common signs in symptomatic children who tested positive were cough and runny nose, they were also common in those with negative test results.
But symptoms such as nausea or loss of taste and smell were up to seven times more common in children infected with the virus.
The team, at the University of Alberta, Canada, says the results provide more evidence that screenings may be unnecessary and that the only way to test for the extent of the disease is through swab tests. nasal.
A new study from the University of Alberta in Canada found that 35.9% of children who tested positive for COVID-19 were asymptomatic. Pictured: Junior Guatemalan immigrant, 7, receives COVID-19 swab test from a nurse as his father Marvin holds him in a clinic in Stamford, Connecticut, May 2020
“The problem from a public health perspective is that there is probably a lot of COVID-19 circulating in the community that people don’t even realize,” said Dr. Finlay McAlister, professor of medicine at the University of Alberta.
“When we see reports of 1,200 new cases per day in the province of Alberta, that’s probably just the tip of the iceberg – there are probably a lot of people out there who don’t know they have the disease. and potentially spread it. ”
For the study, published in the Journal of the Canadian Medical Association, the team examined nearly 2,500 children who were tested between April and September.
All were at least five years old and were tested due to contact tracing, whether symptomatic or not.
Of the children, 1,987 tested positive for COVID-19 and the remaining 476 tested negative. Of the children who contracted the virus, 714 of them, 35.9%, reported being asymptomatic.
“Of course, children are at risk for many different viruses, so the symptoms specific to COVID are actually more things like loss of taste and smell, headache, fever, nausea and vomiting, not a runny nose, cough and sore throat, McAlister says.
The cough was the symptom most experienced by children, appearing in 24.5% of those who tested positive.
The others most common were a runny nose and sore throat, with 19.6% and 15.7%, respectively, reporting symptoms.
However, they were actually slightly more common in those with negative COVID-19 test results, with 25.5% reporting cough and 22.1% having a runny nose.
“A sore throat and a runny nose means you have some sort of upper respiratory infection,” McAlister said.
“But fever, headache and loss of taste or smell are the most important indicators that one may have COVID-19 rather than another viral upper respiratory infection”.
However, symptoms such as anosmia/ageusia (loss of taste and smell), nausea and/or vomiting, and headache were much more predictive of coronavirus.
Children with coronavirus were seven times more likely to report losing their sense of taste or smell compared to children who tested negative.
Nausea or vomiting was three times more likely in people with coronavirus and headaches were more than twice as common in children with COVID-19.
McAlister said if someone is feeling sick they should stay home and even those who have fallen well should practice such measures as social distancing, hand washing and wearing a mask.
“Some people with COVID feel good and don’t realize they have it, so they socialize with friends and unwittingly spread the virus, and I think that’s the big deal,” he said. .
“This relates to safe schools programs. We can do any COVID-19 questionnaire we want, but if one-third of children are asymptomatic, the answer will be no to all questions – yet they are still infected.