Covid in children: Young children and those from disadvantaged areas at higher risk of hospitalization – new research

A little boy with a breathing tube lying in a hospital bed.

At the height of the spread of the disease, especially since 2021, many children and adolescents who were admitted to the hospital were infected with Covid. However, it is never clear whether a percentage of them are in the hospital because of COVID, indicating a relatively severe illness, or for different reasons (such as injuries), but only happen to test positive for COVID during their stay.

The true extent of serious illness caused by COVID among those under 18 years of age is constantly debated Doctor and scientists. It has been known for a long time that severe disease in children is rare and more likely in those children with serious health problems such as chronic heart disease or a suppressed immune system. But we do not know how much age, poverty or ethnicity is related to the severity of the disease.

We now have some answers with the publication of our study in The BMJ where we looked at all children and adolescents who were hospitalized with their first covid infection in the UK between July 2020 and February 2022.

Of the 3.2 million people and teenagers in the UK who have contracted the virus for the first time this year, nearly 30,000 have been hospitalized.

We found that more than 70% of these children require hospital care, either in whole or in part. Because of COVID. Our study also showed an increased risk in the youngest children (especially children under one year of age), children from very deprived areas and minority children.

Some important findings

We are part of a group of pediatricians and data scientists who work together to study children’s health records. We categorized pediatric hospitalizations into 4 groups:

  • Admission with pediatric multisystem inflammatory syndrome (Pims), a severe immune reaction that occurs approximately four to six weeks after infection with COVID.
  • Admission due to or suspected to be due to COVID, shortly after infection.
  • Attendance where COVID is part of the reason a child is hospitalized, along with other factors.
  • “Accidental” hospitalizations where COVID had no contributing role.

Of the 21,000 hospitalized children with COVID, suspected COVID, partial COVID, or PIMs, 60% had no underlying health conditions.

Unlike the adult population, hospital-acquired COVID infections are rare, accounting for about 1% (380 cases), compared to approx. 30% in adults. This may be because most children stay in the hospital for a shorter period of time than adults, which makes them less likely to contract the virus.

Overall, Kovid’s hospital stay is short, indicating that most children recover quickly. Most children and adolescents stay in the hospital between one and three days, although children with Pims require a longer stay of about a week.

However, 12.4% of children (2,605 out of 21,000) who were partially or fully treated for COVID experienced serious illness, as defined by a diagnosis of Pims (1,790 children) or those without Pims requiring intensive care (815 children).



Read more: Covid-19: Prolonged symptoms in children are rarer than in adults – new research


Another difference compared to adults is that the proportion of children and adolescents hospitalized with COVID remains similar to the omicron variable. Among adults, the proportion of hospitalizations mainly due to COVID decreased significantly with the arrival of the omicron in December 2021. On the positive side, in the omicron era, the number of children requiring critical care decreased, at least in part because there were fewer cases. Post.

Deprived children are at high risk

To understand more about risk factors for hospitalization, we looked at hospitalizations due to COVID as a proportion of all infections, and compared this between different groups.

There were fewer recorded total infections among children living in areas of greater deprivation. (625,000) compared to the disadvantaged (732,000 people). But remarkably, there were more than twice as many hospitalizations for COVID in the most disadvantaged areas (6,230 vs. 2,880).

A little boy with a breathing tube lying in a hospital bed.
The risk of serious illness from COVID is not equal for all children.
GOLFX/Shutterstock

The number of infections recorded in disadvantaged children suggests that they receive fewer tests than children from affluent areas. The higher number of hospital admissions in underweight children may reflect greater infection but may also reflect an increased risk of severe disease.

For example, obese children are over-represented among those admitted to hospital compared to children who are infected but do not need hospital care. Children in more disadvantaged areas have higher rates of obesity than those in disadvantaged areas due to socioeconomic inequality.

We saw a similar pattern for ethnic groups, with minority children over-represented in COVID hospitals, especially in the most severe cases requiring critical care.

The youngest

The number of infections recorded in children under the age of one is the lowest of all age groups. This may be because they are less likely to be tested, but it is possible that they have less exposure to other people with Covid-19 than older children who mix in schools and nurseries.

Despite this, and although this group makes up only 5% of children under the age of 18 in England, children account for 34% of all hospital admissions (7,115 out of 21,000).

Higher hospitalization rates in children indicate that they are at greater risk. Or they may experience more discomfort and worry parents and doctors when they develop the disease compared to older children. It is well known that children under one year of age are at risk of other respiratory diseases such as RSV.



Read more: Six common myths of COVID debunked by virologists and public health experts


Unless babies over 6 months of age have a particular underlying health condition, they are not given the COVID vaccine in the UK. Therefore, we may see continued hospitalizations in this age group, who are not protected from previous infections or vaccinations.

Pregnant women are eligible for a COVID booster, and ensuring they receive this is important because their immune systems can protect their newborns in the first months of life.


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