August 9, 2021

UW Health pediatrician busts myths about kids and COVID-19

Teenagers wearing medical masks and backpacks in a school yard

Madison, Wis. – Misinformation has been an issue since the beginning of the pandemic, so UW Health pediatricians are correcting some of the most common and harmful myths around kids and COVID-19 to ensure everyone – from teachers to parents to school administrators – can making informed decisions for school safety.

The data below comes from the Centers of Disease Control and American Academy of Pediatrics.

Myth #1: Kids don’t get seriously sick from COVID-19. It is not worse than the flu.

Fact: Kids can get and transmit COVID-19, including severe cases.

  • Children can still get very sick and even be hospitalized. Some children are at higher risk of COVID-19 due to medical conditions.

  • While children do not die from the virus at the same rate as adults, they can still die from COVID-19. In fact, children die from this virus at rates similar to other diseases for which children are vaccinated or kept out of school.

  • Children can also transmit the virus to others, which is especially dangerous for families that include someone who is immunocompromised.

  • As of July 2021, more than 4,000 children with COVID-19 developed multisystem inflammatory syndrome. More than 340 children have died from COVID-19 in the United States.

  • Some children develop long-term symptoms and other complications due to infection. Researchers are just beginning to understand the impacts of even mild COVID-19 infections on children.

Myth #2: Masks don’t work.

Fact. Studies have shown that universal masking has been an incredibly effective tool for controlling the spread of COVID-19 in schools.

  • Universal masking can allow schools to largely operate normally.

  • Distancing can be reduced in the classroom or on the bus when everyone is masked.

  • If children are exposed to COVID-19 in a fully masked environment, they do not need to quarantine.

  • Most children can mask successfully; a few children with special needs may need accommodations if they are unable to consistently mask.

Myth #3: Vaccines for teens were rushed and are not safe.

Fact: Vaccines are extremely effective and have been extensively tested to show they are safe.

  • As of July 2021, more than two billion people have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and more than a billion people are fully vaccinated worldwide.

  • Side effects are extremely rare.

  • All vaccines that are approved for children and teens go through the same testing and review as those developed for adults.

  • The FDA is continuously monitoring for unusual side effects even after vaccines are authorized. All reports are taken seriously and investigated thoroughly.

  • Studies of COVID-19 vaccines in children <12 years of age are ongoing, but approval will not occur until there is sufficient data that proves they are safe and effective.

Myth #4 Masks can be dangerous to kids (e.g., masks restrict air flow, cause CO2 poisoning).

Fact: Masks are made of breathable material that does not block oxygen or trap CO2.

  • Mask are designed to reduce respiratory droplets that may contain COVID-19, either from the wearer or to protect the wearer from others.

  • Oxygen and CO2 molecules are so small, they can flow through and around the mask.

  • Children under the age of two, those with special needs, cognitive impairments or severe breathing problems should not wear a mask for their safety and caregivers should consult their pediatrician for guidance on COVID-19 prevention.

UW Health pediatrician Greg DeMuri debunks some of these myths