Alberta study finds telltale COVID-19 symptoms in kids are fever, loss of taste or smell and nausea

New research published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ) found that one-third of children who tested positive for COVID-19 had no symptoms, but in those that did, loss of taste/smell, headache, fever and nausea/vomiting were most strongly associated with positive cases.

Other flu-like symptoms — including cough, runny nose and sore throat — were the most prominent symptoms in positive cases, but the study suggests they couldn’t be used to accurately predict which cases were positive because they were also most prominent in COVID negative cases.

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The study, published Monday, was done by researchers at the University of Alberta who analyzed 2,463 COVID-19 test results from children in the province between April 13 to Sept. 30. They compared symptoms of those who tested positive (1,987) with those who were negative (476) for infection.

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Eight per cent of kids with positive COVID tests had loss of taste/smell, versus one per cent of kids who tested negative for the coronavirus, and four per cent had nausea or vomiting (vs. less than one per cent of those testing negative).

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Headache was a symptom in 16 per cent of positive cases, compared to six per cent in negative cases, and 26 per cent of positive cases had fever, compared to 15 per cent.

Read more: What we know — and don’t know — about asymptomatic coronavirus transmission

Dr. Finlay McAlister, one of the authors of the study, says those symptoms were associated more with having COVID-19 rather than some other virus.

He says cough, runny nose, and sore throat were equally common in kids who didn’t have COVID-19 but may have had another virus.

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Symptoms of fever or chills, cough and runny nose in this study (19 to 26 per cent) were less frequent than in studies conducted in hospital settings. The authors of the study suggest that was because this was a community-based cohort and cases of disease were likely more mild than those seen in hospitals.

Children aged four and younger were more likely to test negative, and teenagers (ages 13 to 17) were more likely to test positive.

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© 2020 The Canadian Press

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