Risk Factors for Severe COVID-19 in Children

Pediatrics. 2022 Jan 1;149(1):e2021053418. doi: 10.1542/peds.2021-053418. Epub 2021 Dec 22.


Objectives: Describe population-based rates and risk factors for severe coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) (ie, ICU admission, invasive mechanical ventilation, or death) among hospitalized children.

Methods: During March 2020 to May 2021, the COVID-19-Associated Hospitalization Surveillance Network identified 3106 children hospitalized with laboratory-confirmed severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 infection in 14 states. Among 2293 children primarily admitted for COVID-19, multivariable generalized estimating equations generated adjusted risk ratios (aRRs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) of the associations between demographic and medical characteristics abstracted from medical records and severe COVID-19. We calculated age-adjusted cumulative population-based rates of severe COVID-19 among all children.

Results: Approximately 30% of hospitalized children had severe COVID-19; 0.5% died during hospitalization. Among hospitalized children aged <2 years, chronic lung disease (aRR: 2.2; 95% CI: 1.1-4.3), neurologic disorders (aRR: 2.0; 95% CI: 1.5‒2.6), cardiovascular disease (aRR: 1.7; 95% CI: 1.2‒2.3), prematurity (aRR: 1.6; 95% CI: 1.1‒2.2), and airway abnormality (aRR: 1.6; 95% CI: 1.1‒2.2) were associated with severe COVID-19. Among hospitalized children aged 2 to 17 years, feeding tube dependence (aRR: 2.0; 95% CI: 1.5‒2.5), diabetes mellitus (aRR: 1.9; 95% CI: 1.6‒2.3) and obesity (aRR: 1.2; 95% CI: 1.0‒1.4) were associated with severe COVID-19. Severe COVID-19 occurred among 12.0 per 100 000 children overall and was highest among infants, Hispanic children, and non-Hispanic Black children.

Conclusions: Results identify children at potentially higher risk of severe COVID-19 who may benefit from prevention efforts, including vaccination. Rates establish a baseline for monitoring changes in pediatric illness severity after increased availability of COVID-19 vaccines and the emergence of new variants.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19 Vaccines
  • COVID-19* / epidemiology
  • COVID-19* / therapy
  • Child
  • Hospitalization
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Risk Factors
  • SARS-CoV-2


  • COVID-19 Vaccines