Babies and toddlers more likely than teens to spread coronavirus among family, research shows

Close up of boy drawing with chalks
Posted at 3:05 PM, Aug 20, 2021

We're learning more about COVID-19 transmission among families with children.

New research published in JAMA Pediatrics suggests babies and toddlers are more likely to spread the coronavirus to other people in the house than teens.

Figures came from more than 6,200 households in Canada. Breaking down the age of the children, you can see the older kids are more likely to contract the virus.

But when you look at secondary infections within the house, it's the infants to 3-year-olds that had the higher odds of transmitting to other family members in three different models.

“And, you know, it's really the thought that, because these kids may, you know, not feel well, that there's a lot of cuddling and holding of these kids that allows for greater transmission,” said Dr. Tina Tan, a professor of pediatrics at Northwestern University.

While younger children are not eligible for COVID-19 vaccines yet, emergency use authorization is likely coming at the end of the year for kids ages 5 to 11, and early next year for even younger children.

Dr. Tan is seeing increased rates of hospitalized children with COVID-19 in Chicago, where she practices, and across the country. She notes that the initial COVID-19 infection isn't the only concern with children.

“There have been over 4,100 cases of multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MIS-C) that have been reported in children to the CDC,” said Dr. Tan. “These are kids who had an acute COVID infection, and it doesn't seem to matter what the severity of that initial infection is. Some of these kids end up developing MIS-C and are very, very ill when they present to the hospital.”

Dr. Tan sees the new booster strategy as a way to further protect young children and prevent household transmission.

“Those individuals who can receive a booster, they're much more likely to be those individuals that are out and about in the community, so that's going to decrease their risk for actually contracting COVID and bringing it back to the household,” said Dr. Tan.