Lexington doctor talks about how COVID-19 impacts children differently than adults

Posted at 8:26 AM, Jul 21, 2020

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — As daycares and other activities have reopened in Kentucky, the state has seen a growing number of young children test positive for COVID-19, some as young as a few months old. Doctors say the way coronavirus affects children is very different from other viruses, though.

"Thankfully, it hasn't affected children the way it was affected adults, which is unusual, because most viruses like the flu are bad for children," said Dr. Rhya Strifling, the medical director at the University of Kentucky's General Pediatrics Clinic.

In most cases, she says children have been asymptomatic, and those who have symptoms tend to have mild ones that don't require hospitalization.

Because many don't show symptoms, Dr. Strifling thinks there's a chance more children have had the virus, but don't know because they weren't tested.

"I think there's probably a bit of an uptick in what we're seeing now because we're starting to test them more often. In this past month, we've tested many more children," she said.

Some parents may choose to get tested out of concerns they have been exposed to the virus. Dr. Strifling encourages parents to get their kids tested as well.

"They can be tested at any age," said Dr. Strifling. "The drive-through type setting is more appropriate for probably five-year-olds and up because they can tolerate sitting in the car and having the test done. In our clinic, we do a throat swab like a strep swab, so they tolerate it pretty well."

Dr. Strifling also says it appears children get the virus from adults, but it doesn't seem to happen the other way.

"Strangely enough, we just haven't seen that from kid to kid in like the daycare settings or from the children to the parents," she said. "Those studies are ongoing, and we don't know enough now to say for sure."

Additionally, it's still too early to tell what long-term effects the virus has on children. As research continues to be done, Dr. Strifling says schools should set safety guidelines, like wearing face masks and social distancing measures.