For a very small number of children, relative to total number infected, COVID-19 has caused serious lung complications. What is different about these kids?

“Overall children with SARS-CoV-2 infection causing COVID-19 illness have not had severe respiratory illness when compared to adults,” says Joi Lucas, MD, medical director of pediatric pulmonology at Nemours Children’s Clinic and chief of pediatrics, Lakeland Regional Hospital, FL.

“However, there are some children with pulmonary complications of COVID-19 that are concerning.

“These children are often those who are young infants, have underlying immuno-deficiencies or pre-existing conditions that may make them more susceptible to COVID-19.

“To date there is no data to suggest that children with asthma are at any higher risk for severe COVID-19 illness than other kids.

“However, this has not been well-studied.

“Anecdotally, children who vape and have asthma are likely at higher risk for COVID-19 complications.

“Vaping is thought to cause inflammation and damage to the lungs that worsens asthma and increases the risk for viral illness.”

Obesity Puts Children at High Risk of COVID-19 Lung Complications

“Obesity is a serious pre-existing condition that is likely to worsen the outcome of children with COVID-19 and may be under-recognized by parents,” says Dr. Lucas.

This is why you may have come upon a story about an adolescent or teen who succumbed to the novel coronavirus — with the parents stating that he or she had no pre-existing conditions, even though their child was visibly quite overweight.

“In children, the reason for this association has not been well-studied, but some (recent) journal articles hypothesize the mechanism in children is the same in adults,” continues. Dr. Lucas.

“Children who are obese have an increased risk for asthma, obstructive sleep apnea, underlying pro-inflammatory state, cardiovascular disease, coagulopathy (abnormal blood clotting) and compromised immune response.

“These comorbidities make obese children more likely to have worsened outcome with COVID-19.

“In addition, obesity in children and adults is associated with restriction of the diaphragm, the major muscle of respiration, and decreased lung function.” 

Dr. Lucas is double board certified in pediatrics and pediatric pulmonology. She developed the Asthma KidCare Go-Bag, a carrying case and organizer for asthma and allergy medications. Follow her on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter @Dr.JoiMD. 
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer. 

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