Question & Answer

Are children at less risk of contracting COVID-19 than adults?

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  • As schools and childcare facilities prepare to re-open in some countries, scientists, policy-makers and the public have been wondering whether children are at the same risk of contracting (getting) COVID-19 as adults.
  • There is limited evidence available, but a review of 24 studies suggests that there are fewer recorded cases of children getting COVID-19 compared to adults, but this may be due to children often showing no or only mild symptoms. The review concluded that children are just as likely to contract COVID-19 as adults
  • A review of 7 studies suggests that children are not a major source of household transmission of COVID-19. This means that the vast majority of people who get COVID-19 get it from an adult.
  • This review also found one study that suggests that the transmission of COVID-19 in children at school is low. This means that a few cases of children passing COVID-19 to each other in school have been recorded. However, more studies are needed on this topic.
  • It is recommended that children and their caregivers follow the current recommendations to prevent COVID-19 including: washing your hands well and often; covering your mouth and nose with a tissue or sleeve when coughing or sneezing and then safely throw away any used tissue where others will not touch it. Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands. Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces. Avoid shaking hands or hugging when saying hello and greeting other people. Practise social distancing, especially with those who might be unwell.

Things to Remember

  • Just because something is associated with a better (or worse) outcome, that doesn’t mean that it causes the outcome.
  • If one study shows something, it does not mean that is the final answer.
  • Just because a claim is made by an expert or authority, you cannot be sure that it is trustworthy.

Reviewers

  • Lead Researcher: Dr Chris Noone, School of Psychology, NUI Galway
  • Reviewed by: Prof Declan Devane, School of Nursing and Midwifery, HRB-Trials Methodology Research Network, Evidence Synthesis Ireland & Cochrane Ireland, NUI Galway
  • Evidence Advisor: Dr Frank Moriarty,  Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI)
  • Evidence Advisor: Anne Daly, PPI Ignite, NUI Galway
  • Journalist Advisor: Dr Claire O’Connell, Contributor, The Irish Times