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How does COVID-19 impact kids?

How does COVID-19 impact kids?

In our sixth and final podcast episode of 'Parenting in the age of coronavirus', host Professor Sharon Goldfeld leads a discussion with internationally-recognised child health experts from Murdoch Children's Research Institute - Associate Professor Kirsten Perrett and Professor David Burgner - about their research into COVID-19 and its impact on children and adolescents in Australia. In this episode we talk about the risks in Australia, if there is a link between Kawasaki disease and COVID-19, and what important research is being done at MCRI to manage COVID-19 and its impact on kids. Listen to episode 6:

Australian children are back at school, and many of us are thinking about heading back to work, but with new cases on the rise, families are still concerned about the impact of COVID-19 for themselves and their kids. 

Our health professionals and researchers recently got together to talk about the risks and what we know about COVID-19 after the first six months. 

With lots unknown, keep it simple. While researchers and doctors around the world are working hard to figure out clear guidance for how to deal with COVID-19, there’s still a lot we don’t know. That makes it extra important to stick to the basics: wash your hands often with soap and water, keep physically distant from other people, and cough and sneeze into your elbow.

What we know about COVID-19. The virus was first reported in Wuhan, China and from there it’s spread worldwide. It’s a very contagious virus and can remain on some surfaces for days. There’s still lots we don’t know, but we’re learning more every day.

The symptoms of COVID-19. The way that COVID-19 appears in our bodies is quite wide ranging, from mild or even no symptoms, through to a very severe, pneumonia-type illness. Usually, the first symptoms are fever, cough, sore throat and shortness of breath. However, there other symptoms include a runny nose, headache, muscle or joint pain, tummy pain, diarrhoea, nausea, fatigue and loss of appetite. If you or your child feels unwell at all, get tested and contact your GP.

Not your usual respiratory virus. Everyone knows that kids get a lot of respiratory viruses, but COVID-19 isn’t behaving like the other respiratory viruses we know, like colds and flu. This is a virus that generally leaves children untouched, and even when children do get infected those kids often show no or very few, mild symptoms.

Children aren’t getting as sick as adults. One of the big puzzles of COVID-19, is that even children who do get the virus are getting it much less severely. There are a number of theories, but it is clear that children’s bodies provide fewer ‘front doors’ for the virus than adult bodies, and that if the virus gets inside, children’s bodies don’t make the virus welcome in the way adults’ bodies do.

Kawasaki-style illness. There have been around 1000 cases worldwide of a strange complication of COVID-19 that looks a bit like the rare childhood disease Kawasaki disease; the new syndrome is called PIMS-TS. In Australia, there have been no cases of PIMS-TS. If you are concerned about your child, contact your GP.

Research at MCRI. We’ve started a number of research studies to keep our kids healthy and well now and into the future. We’re trying to understand why kids are responding differently to COVID-19 to adults. We are also looking at the impact of COVID-19 socially, and on school and learning.

Our BRACE trial is testing whether the BCG vaccine could help to protect our healthcare workers. The BCG vaccine is over a century old and is used to prevent tuberculosis, it’s not used in Australia but millions of kids receive it every year. BCG has ‘off target’ effects, which means it doesn’t target just tuberculosis, but other viruses too. Our trial is running around the world to test if BCG can help.

There is a lot that’s still unknown at the moment, but it’s pretty clear that parents can feel safe about sending their children back to school. 

Remember the basics. We all need to remember to stick to the hygiene basics of hand washing, physical distancing and elbow coughs and sneezes. Right now, our governments are listening closely to the best scientific expertise and quickly sharing that information to keep us all as safe as possible.

As a parent, you are the expert in your child. If you are concerned about their health, contact your GP or in an emergency, go to the hospital. Hospitals are safe, well prepared and ready to take care of your child.

If you would like more support, there’s a range of online resources and GPs are still holding appointments, via telehealth.

Don’t hesitate to reach out and seek the support you need.
 
Helpful contacts
Parenting in the age of coronavirus podcast series
MCRI COVID-19 
raisingchildren.net.au
Beyond Blue 
headspace
Orygen
Kids helpline
Smiling Mind
1800 Respect

Supported by Medibank.