More than one-third of children with COVID-19 show no symptoms: study

November 30, 2020

More than one-third of kids who have COVID-19 are asymptomatic, according to a University of Alberta study that suggests youngsters diagnosed with the disease may represent just a fraction of those infected.

"The concern 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 Finlay McAlister, a professor of medicine in the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry.

"When we see reports of 1,200 new cases per day in the province of Alberta, that's likely just the tip of the iceberg--there are likely many people who don't know they have the disease and are potentially spreading it," he said.

For the study, McAlister's team analyzed results for 2,463 children who were tested during the first wave of the pandemic--March to September--for COVID-19 infection.

All told, 1,987 children had a positive test result for COVID-19 and 476 had a negative result. Of children who tested positive, 714--35.9 per cent--reported being asymptomatic.

"It speaks to the school safety programs," he said. "We can do all the COVID-19 questionnaires we want, but if one-third of the kids are asymptomatic, the answer is going to be no to all the questions--yet they're still infected."

Because of the asymptomatic nature of the disease in up to one-third of children, McAlister said the province was right to close schools for a longer period over Christmas.

"As far as we know, kids are less likely to spread disease than adults, but the risk is not zero," he said. "Presumably asymptomatic spreaders are less contagious than the person sitting nearby who is sneezing all over you, but we don't know that for sure."

The researchers also found that although cough, runny nose and sore throat were three of the most common symptoms among children with COVID-19 infection--showing up in 25, 19 and 16 per cent of cases respectively--they were actually slightly more common among those with negative COVID-19 test results, and therefore not predictive of a positive test.

"Of course, kids are at risk of contracting many different viruses, so the COVID-specific symptoms are actually more things like loss of taste and smell, headache, fever, and nausea and vomiting, not runny nose, a cough and sore throat," he said.

McAlister noted that his group has a similar paper coming out that shows sore throats and runny noses aren't reliable signs of COVID-19 in adults either, although the vast majority of adults (84 per cent) do show symptoms.

"Sore throat and runny nose means you've got some kind of upper respiratory tract infection, but fever, headache, and loss of taste or smell are the big ones for indicating that one may have COVID-19 rather than another viral upper respiratory tract infection," he said, adding nausea and vomiting wasn't as prominent in adults.

McAlister added that if people have any symptoms at all, they should stay home and get tested, while even those who feel well should still be doing everything they can to stay safe--wearing a protective mask, frequent handwashing, keeping distance, and avoiding meeting indoors.

"Some people with COVID feel well and don't realize they have it so they socialize with friends and unintentionally spread the virus, and I think that's the big issue," he said.

University of Alberta Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry

Related Headache Articles from Brightsurf:

Gentle touch loses its pleasure in migraine patients
Psychophysical data suggest that migraine patients may have abnormal affective aspects of sensorial functioning, by showing reduced sensation of pleasure associated with touch.

Rhythmicity of cluster headache
Although it is known that CH patients exhibit circadian rhythmicity of attacks, new data add a new feature with regard to the rhythmicity of attacks throughout the disease course.

Can eating ice cream make you scream?
A German study finds that around 50 % of the population experience headache attributed to ingestion or inhalation of a cold stimulus (HICS), regardless of having the diagnosis of migraine or other primary headaches.

Cannabis reduces headache and migraine pain by nearly half
Inhaled cannabis reduces self-reported headache severity by 47.3% and migraine severity by 49.6%, according to a recent study by Washington State University researchers published in the Journal of Pain.

Persistent headache or back pain 'twice as likely' in the presence of the other
People with persistent back pain or persistent headaches are twice as likely to suffer from both disorders, a new study from the University of Warwick has revealed.

Is headache from anesthesia after childbirth associated with risk of bleeding around brain?
This study examined whether postpartum women with headache from anesthesia after neuraxial anesthesia (such as epidural) during childbirth had increased risk of being diagnosed with bleeding around the brain (intracranial subdural hematoma).

Too much coffee raises the odds of triggering a migraine headache
Drinking three or more servings of caffeinated beverages a day is associated with the onset of a headache on that or the following day in patients with episodic migraine, according to a new study in The American Journal of Medicine, published by Elsevier.

Defective potassium channels cause headache, not body pain
Defective potassium channels involved in pain detection can increase the chance of developing a headache and could be implicated in migraines, according to research in mice published in eNeuro.

New antibody treatment provides little relief for high-frequency migraine patients
An early assessment reveals that the newly approved antibody treatment Erenumbab does not seem effective among patients who suffer from high-frequency migraines.

Kids with headache after stroke might be at risk for another stroke
A new study has found a high incidence of headaches in pediatric stroke survivors and identified a possible association between post-stroke headache and stroke recurrence.

Read More: Headache News and Headache Current Events is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to