Young children can harbor 100 times more COVID-19 particles in their noses and throats than adults, new study finds

In the study, researchers took nasal swab samples from 145 children with moderate symptoms. Kids under the age of 5 had up to 100-fold more COVID-19 particles than adults. Those 5 to 17 had similar amounts as adults.
As the back-to-school debate continues, a new study reveals that young children may carry higher levels of the coronavirus particles in their noses and throats than adults.

The study comes as teachers ponder how to return to the classroom.

In a widely shared video, 5th-grade teacher Katie O'Connor previewed what her classroom will look like as it's prepped for the pandemic.

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"In what world is this an elementary school classroom? This stinks," she said, "Look at my desks all spaced out three feet apart."

Teachers are torn between wanting to give kids a rich school experience and keeping everyone safe. Now, a new study about how the virus affects kids states that young children may carry high amounts of coronavirus particles in their noses and throats.

In the JAMA Pediatrics study, researchers took nasal swab samples from 145 children with moderate symptoms. Kids under the age of 5 had up to 100-fold more COVID-19 particles than adults. Those 5 to 17 had similar amounts to adults.

While the study didn't focus on how infectious kids are, Dr. Richard Kang, the medical director of the Pediatric ICU at Dignity Health Northridge, said an earlier South Korean study reveals students between the ages of 10 and 18 can spread the virus as easily as adults.

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"It's evidence that younger children carry the virus whether they're symptomatic or asymptomatic," Kang said, "Children do have it. They do carry it and they're just as contagious as adults."

This is important information to consider as school officials decide how and when kids should return to the classroom.

"Knowing that it can be spread to children readily and can be brought back to the household, I think families and parents should really wonder how safe it is when schools open," Kang said.

In her video, O'Connor reflects on the coming weeks. "We won't be doing anything on paper because you can't pass it around," she said, "You can't collect it."

Students in many Southland elementary and high schools will remain on distance learning in the fall. When schools plan to re-open remains an open discussion. Kang hopes continuing research on how the coronavirus affects kids will be at the forefront of the guidance.
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