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Kids are just as vulnerable to COVID-19 as adults but are less likely to get sick, study finds

Experts say kids are more likely to be asymptomatic than adults

Child receiving a COVID-19 test
Photo (c) Images By Tang Ming Tung - Getty Images
A new study conducted by researchers from the University of Utah Health explored the likelihood of both children and adults contracting COVID-19. According to their findings, the risk of being infected with the virus is about the same among all age groups; however, kids are less likely to get sick than adults. 

“Often, it seemed like children weren’t sick because they didn’t have any symptoms,” said researcher Christina Porucznik, Ph.D. “But some were actually infected, and they could still spread COVID-19.” 

Understanding infection risk

For the study, the researchers analyzed data from 310 households enrolled in the Coronavirus Household Evaluation and Respiratory Testing (C-HEaRT) study between September 2020, and April 2021. Over 1,200 participants were involved in this report, and they all answered questions about their COVID-19 symptoms and were tested for infection on a weekly basis. 

Ultimately, the researchers learned that children and adults were equally as likely to become infected with COVID-19. This was true regardless of how old the children were; all age groups -- between birth and 17 years old -- had similar infection rates over the course of the study. 

However, in terms of those who were experiencing symptoms, adults were more likely than kids to feel sick when they tested positive for COVID-19. Nearly 90% of adults were symptomatic, compared with around half of the children involved in the study. 

Moving forward, the researchers hope more work can be done to better understand kids’ immune response to COVID-19. In the meantime, the team hopes consumers do their part to protect their children from infection. 

“We know that until kids can be vaccinated, it’s still important for them to wear masks when they’re in groups and to keep them apart,” Dr. Porucznik said. “And most of all, when they are sick, keep them home.” 

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