Background and objective: Knowledge about COVID-19 in children is limited due to the paucity of reported data. The pediatric age group comprises only less than 5% of total COVID-19 worldwide, therefore, large studies in this population are unlikely in the immediate future. Hence, we planned to synthesize the current data that will help in a better understanding of COVID-19 in children.
Methods: Four different electronic databases (MEDLINE, EMBASE, Web of Science, and CENTRAL) were searched for articles related to COVID-19 in the pediatric population. We included studies reporting disease characteristics and outcomes of COVID-19 in patients aged less than 19 years. We performed a random-effect meta-analysis to provide pooled estimates of various disease characteristics.
Results: 27 studies (4857 patients) fulfilling the eligibility criteria were included in this systematic review, from a total of 883 records. About half of the patients had each of fever and cough, 11% (6-17%) had fast breathing, and 6-13% had gastrointestinal manifestations. Most of the patients had mild to moderate disease, and only 4% had a severe or critical illness. Leukopenia was the commonest reported laboratory abnormality.
Conclusion: Even among the symptomatic COVID-19 cases, severe manifestations are seen in very few children. Though fever and respiratory symptoms are most common, many children also have gastrointestinal manifestations.