With the rapid spread of COVID 19 across Australian states, many parents in the past week have been unsure about whether to continue sending their children to school, preschool and day care, and with good reason. After school activities, sports, libraries and gatherings have all been cancelled and we are in a state of lockdown, yet children are still at school in contact with each other and their teachers. But we know that children seem to be the demographic least affected by COVID 19 – why?
Possible theories as to why children have less severe cases of COVID 19
Please note the below are all theories, not yet proven or agreed upon by all researchers, as to why this virus seems to have a mild effect on children compared to adults.
- Children may have already been infected with one of the four other coronaviruses that infect humans: they all have signs and symptoms similar to the common cold and are common viruses that transmit between children. Researchers don’t know which one of them, if any, might provide some cross immunity.
- The ACE 2 receptors in the human body are where the virus attaches itself, and we have these in our mouths, lungs and even our gut. Children have fewer ACE 2 receptors in their bodies, including in the lower lungs where there is an abundance of these receptors in adults, allowing the virus to take hold here and potentially why serious cases result in pneumonia and bronchitis.
- An aging lung environment in older adults: an adult’s lungs have the ability to reduce inflammation when a foreign substance (such as an environmental irritant like pollution) enters them, so that they do not easily develop asthma or an overreaction to the substance. However, because of this, the lungs do not respond quickly enough to a viral infection entering the lungs.
Children can still be infected with COVID 19
Children can still contract the virus and may show mild symptoms such as fever, runny nose and a cough. Vomiting and diarrhoea may also present. If your child shows symptoms of a cold or flu, keep them at home, isolated as much as possible from other family members and contact your local GP if you are concerned. Despite children thankfully not suffering severe cases of this virus, they can still transmit the virus to more vulnerable groups, so it is important we do what we can to prevent this from happening.
Play it safe
- Along with the general population it is important that children are regularly washing their hands and using hand sanitisers, especially when out in the community or at school/care
- Teaching children how to wash their hands properly, and for the correct amount of time is important (encourage them to sing ‘happy birthday to me’ twice while they wash!)
- Wiping down surfaces with disinfectant in the home daily such as door handles, benches, tables, TV remotes, laptops/screens
- Keeping them home from school/care if possible, as encouraged by the government
- Keeping their diet free of sugar which we know depletes the activity of immune cells, and encouraging them to have warm drinks of broth, herbal teas, soups
- A wholefoods diet full of good protein, fats and complex carbohydrates to ensure they are getting as much nutrition from their food as possible
- Daily supplements of vitamin C, zinc where necessary (needs to be prescribed under the care of a practitioner) – we know these two vitamins in particular are powerful immune enhancers and children with low zinc levels suffer more frequent and chronic infections
- Lots of sunshine for vitamin D – the sunshine vitamin is antiviral, and we know children with low vitamin D levels suffer more frequent infections and persistent unresolved coughs, and children with asthma have more episodes when they are vitamin D deficient. Dose should be prescribed by a health professional.
- Adequate sleep and rest for immune function
- Try to keep stress levels down – we know stress also depletes immunity and kids are great at reading the body language and emotions of the adults in their lives. If you need extra stress support at this time, or your child does, please reach out to us
Children who may be more seriously affected
While we still don’t fully know why some children do seem to experience more moderate cases of COVID 19 whilst majority only suffer very mild symptoms, we should assume that those with pre-existing immune conditions, autoimmune disease, chronic illness and those with asthma may be more at risk. If your child falls into this category them keeping them at home is the best option, along with the above measures. These children may benefit from more intense immune support through supplementation so please see your health care provider for more information or get in touch to discuss this with one of our Naturopaths + Nutritionists. We are offering immune support consults via phone now so send us an email or give the clinic a call to set one up. Our Naturopath Claire Luckman also offers 30 minute Kid’s Acute Consults so please reach out if you would like prescribed support for your child/ren.