Pediatric COVID-19: Systematic review of the literature

Am J Otolaryngol. 2020 Sep-Oct;41(5):102573. doi: 10.1016/j.amjoto.2020.102573. Epub 2020 Jun 6.


Objectives: There is limited data regarding the demographics and clinical features of SARS-CoV-2 infection in children. This information is especially important as pneumonia is the single leading cause of death in children worldwide. This Systematic Review aims to elucidate a better understanding of the global impact of COVID-19 on the pediatric population.

Methods: A systematic review of the literature was performed in accordance with PRISMA (Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses) guidelines to gain insight into pediatric COVID-19 epidemiology. Specifically, Pubmed and Google Scholar databases were searched to identify any relevant article with a focus on Pediatric Covid 19, Pediatric Covid-19, Pediatric SARS-COV-2, and Pediatric Coronavirus 19. References within the included articles were reviewed. All articles that met criteria where analyzed for demographics, clinical, laboratory, radiographic, treatment and outcomes data.

Results: Ten studies including two case series and 8 retrospective chart reviews, altogether describing a total of 2914 pediatric patients with COVID-19 were included in this systematic review. Of the patients whose data was available, 56% were male, the age range was 1 day to 17 years, 79% were reported to have no comorbidities, and of the 21% with comorbidities, the most common were asthma, immunosupression, and cardiovascular disease. Of pediatric patients that were tested and positive for an infection with SARS-CoV-2, patients were asymptomatic, 14.9% of the time. Patients presented with cough (48%), fever (47%) and sore throat/pharyngitis (28.6%), more commonly than with upper respiratory symptoms/rhinorrhea/sneezing/nasal congestion (13.7%), vomiting/nausea (7.8%) and diarrhea (10.1%). Median lab values including those for WBC, lymphocyte count and CRP, were within the reference ranges with the exception of procalcitonin levels, which were slightly elevated in children with COVID-19 (median procalcitonin levels ranged from 0.07 to 0.5 ng/mL. Computed tomography (CT) results suggest that unilateral CT imaging findings are present 36% of cases while 64% of pediatric patients with COVID-19 had bilateral findings. Of the studies with age specific hospitalization data available, 27.0% of patients hospitalized were infants under 1 year of age. Various treatment regimens including interferon, antivirals, and hydroxychloroquine therapies have been trialed on the pediatric population but there are currently no studies showing efficacy of one regimen over the other. The mortality rate of children that were hospitalized with COVID-19 was 0.18%.

Conclusion: In contrast to adults, most infected children appear to have a milder course and have better outcomes overall. Additional care may be needed for children with comorbidities and younger children. This review also suggests that unilateral CT chest imaging findings were seen in 36.4% pediatric COVID-19 patients. This is particularly concerning as the work-up of pediatric patients with cough may warrant a bronchoscopy to evaluate for airway foreign bodies. Extra precautions need to be taken with personal protective equipment for these cases, as aerosolizing procedures may be a method of viral transmission.

Level of evidence: 4 (Systematic Review).

Keywords: 2019 novel coronavirus; 2019-nCoV; COVID-19; Coronavirus 19; Pediatric; SARS-CoV-2.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Betacoronavirus*
  • COVID-19
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Coronavirus Infections / diagnosis*
  • Coronavirus Infections / epidemiology*
  • Coronavirus Infections / therapy
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pandemics
  • Pneumonia, Viral / diagnosis*
  • Pneumonia, Viral / epidemiology*
  • Pneumonia, Viral / therapy
  • SARS-CoV-2