A symptom-tracking app indicates that children experience different COVID-19 symptoms than adults, The Guardian reports. While a persistent cough and a diminished sense of taste and smell are common among adults, the app has found, children with the virus most commonly experience symptoms such as headache, fatigue, and fever, among others.
Since the novel coronavirus emerged in late 2019, scientists have been scrambling to understand its effects on human health. In March, an international group of scientists and institutions announced the COVID Symptom Study to obtain data from patients with COVID-19. According to its website, the app has received self-reported information on more than 4.1 million patients, helping to identify patterns based on demographics.
More than half of the 198 children in their system who tested positive for the virus experienced fatigue and headaches, according to The Guardian. Fever occurred in around 50 percent. Around one-third of the kids had sore throats, and a minority of children exhibited a skin rash or experienced diarrhea.
“We need to start to telling people what are the key symptoms at different ages rather than this blanket obsession with fever, cough, and lack of smell,” Tim Spector, an epidemiologist at King’s College London and co-leader of the project, tells The Guardian. He suggests that children showing these symptoms should be kept home from school, though not necessarily tested.
Sanjay Patel, a pediatric infectious disease doctor at Southampton Children’s Hospital in England, cautions that these symptoms are common among many childhood illnesses and could lead parents to unduly quarantine children, which comes with risks. “The harms of that approach are very tangible,” Patel tells The Guardian. “Many children would be missing a lot of school, and the majority of children being tested would still be negative.”
A recent New York Times article, unrelated to the app, comments on how it will be challenging in the coming months for parents to distinguish COVID-19 symptoms from those of the common cold.
“This is not the year to be sending your kid to school sick, even a little bit, even with mild symptoms, which I know is crazy. Because it’s really hard for parents,” Adam Ratner, the director of pediatric infectious diseases at Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital in New York, tells the Times. “Sometimes mild symptoms are all we have to go on and kids are really good at shedding the virus, even if they don’t have symptoms.”