Obesity likely the biggest risk factor for children getting hospitalized with COVID | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Obesity likely the biggest risk factor for children getting hospitalized with COVID

Image Credit: (AP Photo/Patrick Sison)

While young children don’t often get really sick with COVID-19, the majority who do have some underlying medical conditions.

“Obesity is probably the biggest risk factor,” Dr. Katharine Smart, president of the Canadian Medical Association, said in a Zoom meeting yesterday, Nov. 23.

The meeting was co-hosted by the Central Okanagan, Surrey and Vancouver parent advisory councils to talk about children and COVID. It was held on the same day that Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced that children aged five to 11 can start to be vaccinated against COVID on Monday.

READ MORE: Vaccines for children available in B.C. starting Monday

Dr. Smart explained that, with the new delta variant, more children are getting infected with COVID and more are being hospitalized.

In the United States, about one per cent of children infected are hospitalized but that rate is only 0.25% in Canada, she said.

“Why that is, isn’t entirely clear,” Dr. Smart said. “We think it has something to do with our healthcare system, our social determinants being somewhat different and, also, rates of childhood obesity not being as severe in Canada as the U.S. That’s shown to be a major risk factor for COVID.”

Other underlying conditions, such as chronic lung disease, neurologic conditions and genetic disorders are also risk factors. In the U.S., asthma is a risk factor but that doesn’t seem to be the case in Canada, she said.

While two-thirds of children who are hospitalized in Canada have underlying conditions, the rest don’t seem to have any.

“It can happen to any child,” Dr. Smart said.

In B.C., that’s been more than 500 children a week aged five to 11 who have been diagnosed with COVID since school resumed in September. That number is now falling, hitting 457 for the most recent week of Nov. 16 to 22.

None of them ended up in hospital that week but, since the start of the pandemic, 60 out of almost 16,000 infected children in that age group have ended up in B.C. hospitals with five having to go into intensive care.

In the U.S., one-third of children hospitalized end up in intensive care but it’s one in four or five in Canada, Dr. Smart said.

READ MORE: Private healthcare providers, dentists to be required to have COVID-19 vaccines

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