Back to school: the real symptoms to look out for in children

September 7, 2020

This article has not been updated recently

According to research from the COVID Symptom Study app over half (52%) of children school aged children (those under the age of 18) who tested positive for COVID don’t log any ‘adult’ classic symptoms (cough, fever, anosmia) in the week before and after the test. In addition, a third (33%) of children who tested positive for COVID never logged any of the 20 symptoms listed in the App suggesting many children are asymptomatic.   

With children heading back to school this week  it is important that parents and teachers are aware of all the symptoms that children might present with to make the right decision when it comes to sending them back to the classroom. The research highlighted that children display a different range of symptoms compared to the overall adult population. The top five symptoms in school aged children who test positive for COVID are; fatigue (55%) headache (53%), fever (49%), sore throat (38%) and loss of appetite  (35%). This was different compared to the App’s data on adults; fatigue (87%), headache (72%), loss of smell (60%), persistent cough (54%) and sore throat (49%). In addition to this, research from the app has also found that one in six (15%) children who test positive for COVID also present with an unusual skin rash.  

Tim Spector, Professor of Genetic Epidemiology at King's College London, comments: 

“Getting children back to school and keeping them in school is a priority, so it is essential that we understand how COVID-19 affects children and highlight the potential differences. Knowing that children present  less often with respiratory symptoms and are more likely to be suffering from headaches, fatigue and skin rashes, will help parents make the right decisions to keep them at home until they feel better. This is a stressful time for all and if as many parents log for their children as possible we will have a much clearer picture of COVID within local schools across the UK allowing us to keep schools open and children learning!”

The COVID Symptom Study App was developed and is managed by health science company ZOE. Research using data from the app is being undertaken by academics at King's College London. The findings are based on the data from 198 children with positive tests and roughly 15,800 negative tests, making it currently one of the largest studies of COVID positive children in the UK. 

The COVID Symptom Study app allows parents to log the health of their children with its multiple profile setting. Currently the app has nearly 250,000 children on the app, but in order to help increase the accuracy of hotspot detection and help to further research the symptoms in children, more children are urgently needed. The app is available to download from the Apple App Store and Google Play Store.

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