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Children at low risk of developing severe outcomes from COVID-19 infection: study

Owen Wilhite, 10, is happy to get a COVID-19 vaccine in Calgary, Alta., on November 26, 2021. Leah Hennel / AHS

A small number of children in an international study that included Canadian researchers experienced severe outcomes after visiting an emergency room and testing positive for COVID-19.

Researchers found that about three per cent, or 107 infected kids, of 3,221 children had severe outcomes within 14 days of their ER visit, just under 23 per cent were hospitalized and four children died.

Severe outcomes included cardiovascular complications, such as inflammation of the heart, as well as neurologic, respiratory or infectious problems.

Researchers also discovered that young infants were not at a higher risk for severe outcomes.


The study was co-led by the University of Calgary’s Cumming School of Medicine and two major U.S. hospitals.

The children were 18 years old and younger and came from 10 countries, including Canada, the United States, Italy, Spain and Australia.

The study spanned 41 emergency departments.

“We found that older age, having a pre-existing chronic condition, and symptom duration were important risk factors for severe outcomes,” Dr. Stephen Freedman said in a news release.

He was the study’s co-lead and is a professor at the University of Calgary.

“Fortunately, the risk of developing severe disease in children with COVID-19 discharged from the emergency department is very low,” added Dr. Todd Florin, director of research in emergency medicine at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago.

“Our findings can provide reassurance to parents and clinicians for children well enough to be managed in the community, while also providing important insights on which children may be at particular risk for severe outcomes.”