Children and COVID-19 Risk (Corona Virus)

Are you concerned about children and COVID-19 risk? Are they infected as much as adults? What are their symptoms? What protects them? What increases their risk?

Based on the most recent data from studies from China and around the world, we have some answers and recommendations. Here’s the most current information on children and COVID-19 risk.

Children and COVID-19 Risk (Corona Virus)

Recent Studies from China

Infection Rates Among Children

One study from China focused on the infection rate of children versus adults.

These researchers looked at 391 people with confirmed COVID-19 and 1,286 individuals who were in close contact with those with confirmed cases.

The individuals in close contact were tested to see who contracted the virus and who did not. The researchers found that 7.4% of children under age 10 who were in close contact with confirmed COVID-19 patients contracted the virus. This infection rate was similar to adults, whose rate was 7.9% in this study.

The researchers concluded that the infection rate is similar even if the rate of severe symptoms is much different (1).

Rate of Severe Symptoms and Disease

Another group of scientists studied 2143 pediatrics cases of COVID-19 from the China Center of Disease Control and Prevention. The cases broke down as follows:

  • 731 were confirmed to have COVID-19 from laboratory tests
  • 1412 were confirmed via symptoms, x-rays, etc.
  • the median age of all patients was 7 years (range: 2-13 years old)
  • 1213 cases (56.6%) were boys and 930 were girls (43.4%)

Overall, only a small percentage of kids had severe cases (about 10% vs. an estimated 20% of all adult cases). The severe risk breakdown was:

  • 10.6% of infants less than a year experienced severe symptoms or critical disease
  • 7.3% of ages 1 to 5 had severe symptoms or critical disease
  • 4.2% for 6-to-10-year-olds
  • 4.1% for 11-to-15-year-olds
  • 3% for those 16 and older
  • One child died, age 14

What do these numbers tell us?

While this is a limited data set, the numbers do give us some insight. Based on this data, there was not a significant difference in the infection of girls vs. boys. Many of the kids with confirmed cases were completely asymptomatic, but risk of severe disease was great among infants.

The researchers also noted that the most severe symptoms occurred early in the disease.  Most children experienced the majority of symptoms from illness onset to diagnosis (average of 2 days). Then, it became a more steady, mild disease that tapered off in symptoms (2).

Information from the United States Centers of Disease Control

According to our CDC guidelines, children do not appear to be at a higher risk than adults, unlike other viruses such as influenze. So far, adults make up the majority of known cases.

Children should take the same precautions as adults to reduce risk of contracting and spreading the virus. You can find more at

Highest Risk Factors for Children and COVID-19

Like adults, kids with pre-existing conditions such as asthma, lung or heart disease, diabetes, and immunocompromising conditions are at higher risk than those without these conditions.

In addition, children often have a more difficult time restraining from touching their faces than adults.

To reduce the risk for children:

  • Practice the same tips as those outlined here (Dr. Colbert’s Keys t Avoid COVID-19
  • Keep children home from school and activities
  • Practice social distancing when they are outside of the home
  • Encourage exercise and activity within your home or outside (away from others)
  • Encourage frequent handwashing, even more than adults, as they may touch their facing more

If your child is an infant or has pre-existing conditions, be even more diligent with hand washing and in keeping them away from others outside the family, whether they display symptoms or not. Call a doctor is your child becomes symptomatic, such as:

  • Any difficulty breathing. This can display as rapid or forceful breathing, pale or bluish skin color, trouble nursing or taking a bottle, etc.
  • A fever, especially one that does not respond to medicine
  • Unusually fatigue or lethargy
  • Trouble hydrating or refusal to eat or drink

If possible, call your doctor or hospital before coming into an office to reduce the risk to your own child and others.

Bottom Line

According to the data we have available, children may contract the COVID virus at a similar rate as adults, but often display no symptoms or mild symptoms. However, infants and those with pre-existing conditions are still at a higher risk. It’s important for children, like adults, to practice strategies of social distancing, handwashing or hand-sanitizer use, and disease prevention.


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