COVID-19 in pediatric patients: What the hospitalist needs to know


Current challenges

Given the aggressive transmission of COVID-19, these numbers seem to be increasing exponentially with a significant impact on the life of the entire country. Therefore, we must focus on containing the spread and mitigating the transmission with a multimodality approach.

Dr. Raman Palabindala, University of Mississippi Medical Center, Jackson

Dr. Raman Palabindala

Some of the initial challenges faced by physicians in the United States were related to difficulty in access to testing in persons under investigation (PUI), which in turn resulted in a delay in diagnosis and infection control. At this time, the need is to increase surge testing capabilities across the country through a variety of innovative approaches including public-private partnerships with commercial labs through Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Department of Health and Human Services. To minimize exposure to health care professionals, telemedicine and telehealth capabilities should be exploited. This will minimize the exposure to infected patients and reduce the need for already limited personal protective equipment (PPE). As the number of cases rise, hospitals should expect and prepare for a surge in COVID-19–related hospitalizations and health care utilization.


Various theories are being proposed as to why children are not experiencing severe disease with COVID-19. Children may have cross-protective immunity from infection with other coronaviruses. Children may not have the same exposures from work, travel, and caregiving that adults experience as they are typically exposed by someone in their home. At this time, not enough is known about clinical presentations in children as the situation continues to evolve across the globe.

Respiratory infections in children pose unique infection control challenges with respect to compliant hand hygiene, cough etiquette, and the use of PPE when indicated. There is also concern for persistent fecal shedding of virus in infected pediatric patients, which could be another mode of transmission.6 Children could, however, be very efficient vectors of COVID-19, similar to flu, and potentially spread the pathogen to very vulnerable populations leading to high morbidity and mortality. School closures are an effective social distancing measure needed to flatten the curve and avoid overwhelming the health care structure of the United States.

Dr. Konanki is a board-certified pediatrician doing inpatient work at Wellspan Chambersburg Hospital and outpatient work at Keystone Pediatrics in Chambersburg, Pa. He also serves as the physician member of the hospital’s Code Blue Jr. committee and as a member of Quality Metrics committee at Keystone Health. Dr. Tirupathi is the medical director of Keystone Infectious Diseases/HIV in Chambersburg, Pa., and currently chair of infection prevention at Wellspan Chambersburg and Waynesboro (Pa.) Hospitals. He also is the lead physician for antibiotic stewardship at these hospitals. Dr. Palabindala is hospital medicine division chief at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, Jackson.


1. Bi Q et al. Epidemiology and transmission of COVID-19 in Shenzhen China: Analysis of 391 cases and 1,286 of their close contacts. medRxiv 2020.03.03.20028423.

2. Liu W et al. Detection of Covid-19 in children in early January 2020 in Wuhan, China. N Engl J Med. 2020 Mar 12. doi: 10.1056/NEJMc2003717.

3. Xia W et al. Clinical and CT features in pediatric patients with COVID‐19 infection: Different points from adults. Pediatr Pulmonol. 2020 Mar 5. doi: 10.1002/ppul.24718.

4. Wei M et al. Novel Coronavirus infection in hospitalized infants under 1 year of age in China. JAMA. 2020 Feb. 14. doi: 10.1001/jama.2020.2131.

5. Huijun C et al. Clinical characteristics and intrauterine vertical transmission potential of COVID-19 infection in nine pregnant women: A retrospective review of medical records. Lancet. 2020 Mar 7 395;10226:809-15.

6. Xu Y et al. Characteristics of pediatric SARS-CoV-2 infection and potential evidence for persistent fecal viral shedding. Nat Med. 2020 Mar 13. doi. org/10.1038/s41591-020-0817-4.


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