Severe acute respiratory syndrome in children: experience in a regional hospital in Hong Kong

Pediatr Crit Care Med. 2003 Jul;4(3):279-83. doi: 10.1097/01.PCC.0000077079.42302.81.


Objective: To report the clinical, laboratory, and radiologic features of children with severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and to examine the difference between the younger and older age groups.

Design: Retrospective descriptive cohort study.

Setting: A regional hospital in Hong Kong.

Patients: Children younger than 18 yrs with SARS.

Results: Twenty-one children were included, with a mean age of 10.7 +/- 5.1 yrs. Children with SARS presented with fever, nonproductive cough, malaise, chills, headache, myalgia, and loss of appetite. Examination of the chest showed minimal auscultatory findings. Common laboratory findings included lymphopenia, thrombocytopenia, and mild elevations of activated partial thromboplastin time, alanine transaminase, lactic dehydrogenase, and creatine phosphokinase. Bacteriologic and virologic studies were all negative for common pathogens. Unilateral focal opacity was the commonest finding in chest radiography. High-resolution computerized tomography of the thorax was an early diagnostic tool if the chest radiograph was negative. The clinical course was less severe in comparison with adult patients. However, adolescents (age, > or =12 yrs) resembled adults in their clinical features. When compared with the younger age group, the adolescents had significantly higher temperatures, more constitutional upset, and a greater need for steroid treatment. Children younger than 12 yrs seemed less ill but had more coughing. On the whole, the outcome was favorable.

Conclusion: Severe acute respiratory syndrome affects children, but the course is less severe. Nevertheless, the disease could have a significant psychosocial impact on children because of the potential seriousness of the disease in their adult family members.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones / therapeutic use
  • Age Factors
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / therapeutic use
  • Antiviral Agents / therapeutic use
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Hong Kong / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Methylprednisolone / therapeutic use
  • Radiography, Thoracic
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Ribavirin / therapeutic use
  • Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome / diagnosis
  • Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome / diagnostic imaging
  • Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome / drug therapy
  • Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome / epidemiology*
  • Sex Factors
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents
  • Antiviral Agents
  • Ribavirin
  • Methylprednisolone