Children, teens, and young adults are at greater risk for severe complications from COVID-19 than previously thought, according to a study which says those with underlying health conditions are at even greater risk.
"The idea that COVID-19 is sparing of young people isjust false," said study co-author Lawrence Kleinman from RutgersUniversity in the US.
According to the study, published in JAMA Pediatrics,children are more likely to get very sick if they have other chronic conditionslike obesity.
"It is also important to note that children withoutchronic illness are also at risk. Parents need to continue to take the virusseriously," Kleinman cautioned.
The study, published in JAMA Pediatrics, is the first todescribe the characteristics of seriously ill pediatric COVID-19 patients inNorth America.
In the research, thescientists assessed 48 children and young adults — from newborns to 21 yearsold — who were admitted to
pediatric intensive care units(PICUs) in the US and Canada for COVID-19 in March and April.
The study noted that more than 80per cent of the children had chronic underlying conditions, such as immunesuppression, obesity, diabetes, seizures, or chronic lung disease.
Of these children, 40 per centdepended on technological support due to developmental delays or geneticanomalies, the researchers said.
More than 20 per cent experiencedfailure of two or more organ systems due to COVID-19, they said, adding thatnearly 40 per cent required a breathing tube and ventilator.
At the end of the follow-upperiod, about 33 percent of the children were still hospitalised due toCOVID-19, the scientists reported in the study.
Three of the children stillrequired ventilator support and one of them was still on life support.
The study also noted that two ofthe children admitted during the three-week study period died.
"This study provides abaseline understanding of the early disease burden of COVID-19 in pediatricpatients," said Hariprem Rajasekhar, a pediatric intensivist involved inconducting the study at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School's Department ofPediatrics.
Compared with mortality rates ofup to 62 per cent among adults admitted to ICUs for COVID-19, the study notedthat the mortality rate for PICU patients is 4.2 per cent.
"This early study shows thatCOVID-19 can result in a significant disease burden in children but confirmsthat severe illness is less frequent, and early hospital outcomes in childrenare better than in adults," the scientists wrote in the study.
According to Kleinman, doctorsare also seeing a new COVID-related syndrome in children.
Citing earlier reports, he saidchildren with COVID-19 may be at risk of heart failure, and a condition termedpediatric multi-system inflammatory syndrome.
"Although our data collection for this study has ended, we continue to develop collaborations with colleagues in our region and across the country to try to understand these more severe complications," Kleinman said.