Are Childhood Cancer Patients at Risk of Developing a Serious Case of COVID-19?

Covid-19 is an abbreviated name for ‘Coronavirus 2019’ which is a highly contagious virus that attacks the respiratory system.

Most people who catch the virus only display mild symptoms that are similar to the common flu. However, others can have a severe reaction and develop pneumonia-like complications that require urgent medical attention.

All immunocompromised patients are at higher risk of contracting the virus due to their weakened immune system. Whilst children are generally at lower risk of catching the virus, children with cancer are considered vulnerable for the following reasons:

  • Depending the type of cancer, the immune cells that fight off germs are constantly being attacked by the cancer cells, meaning they are less effective.
  • Cancer treatments such as certain medicines and radiation therapy weaken the skin and the protective membranes that line the digestive tract and the mouth. This makes the body more vulnerable, allowing harmful viruses like COVID-19 to enter the body more easily.

Although there is a possibility that COVID-19 could develop into a serious illness, a recent study in the US found that 95% pediatric cancer patients who contracted COVID-19 during treatment only suffered mild symptoms (Dr Boulad F, et al. JAMA Oncology 2020).

However, is still important that children who are immunocompromised are fully protected. It is strongly advised that you pay close attention to any developments in your child’s health and seek medical help if you believe your child has been affected.

Caring for a Sick Child with COVID-19

Don’t wait to contact your children’s cancer doctor if you see any signs of COVID-19.

Symptoms include:

  • High temperature
  • New, continuous cough that lasts over 24 hours
  • Loss or change to smell or taste
  • Breathing difficulties

The earlier COVID-19 is detected, the chances of successful treatment and recovery increases. With social distancing restrictions in place, professionals are urging parents not to hesitate if your child is showing any symptoms so they can catch the virus as early as possible.

Use precautions for your child at all times. Members of the family, including siblings should not leave the house and should self-isolate if they are showing symptoms or have possibly been exposed to someone with COVID-19.

In very rare cases, children who are immunocompromised can develop a serious inflammatory syndrome called Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome (MIS-C) which is specifically associated with COVID-19.

Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome (MIS-C) occurs in children who have had COVID-19 previously, even if they did not have any apparent COVID-19 symptoms, or they were considered asymptomatic. Contact our medical expert immediately if your child develops any of the following symptoms:

  • Fever for 24 hours or more
  • Diarrhoea or vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Eye redness, skin rash or reddening lips or tongue
  • Swollen hands or feet
  • General sluggishness and mood swings

To protect immunocompromised children from contracting COVID-19, it is important to use precaution and contact a health specialist if you have any concerns about your child’s health or they display any symptoms of COVID-19.

Are you, or do you know, someone who would benefit from cancer assistance? At the National Cancer Assistance Foundation, we are here to help. We were founded with one simple goal – to improve the quality of life for families suffering with cancer across the country. You can make a difference by donating today.

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Posted in Blog Posts, COVID-19.