Diarrhoea and vomiting could be symptom of Covid-19 in children

4 September 2020, 13:36

The team found that 6.9% of the total, 68 children, had antibodies for the disease
The team found that 6.9% of the total, 68 children, had antibodies for the disease. Picture: Getty

By Matt Drake

New research has suggested diarrhoea and vomiting could be a sign of Covid-19 in children, sparking calls for a change in official NHS symptoms.

The checklist for the virus in children currently includes a high temperature, a new, continuous cough, and a loss or change to the sense of smell or taste.

But now there are calls for the official NHS guidelines to be updated after a yet-to-be-peer-reviewed study by researchers at King’s College London, based on data from the Covid symptom study app, found gastrointestinal problems could be a symptom.

Researchers at Queen’s University Belfast say they have confirmed an upset stomach is a symptom of Covid-19 in children and could be a key sign of the disease.

The first author of the research, Dr Tom Waterfield, said: "In our group, diarrhoea and vomiting were more predictive than, say, cough or even changes in smell and taste.

"If you want to actually diagnose infection in children, we need to start looking at diarrhoea and vomiting, not just upper respiratory tract symptoms."

The Belfast study took place between April 6 and July 3 with more than 990 children of healthcare workers from across the UK aged between two and 15.

The team found that 6.9% of the total, 68 children, had antibodies for the disease, suggesting they had had Covid-19 and half of these reported having symptoms.

Around 19% reported gastrointestinal symptoms such as diarrhoea, vomiting and stomach cramps.

Prof Tim Spector, of King’s College London, said: "Our data on nearly 250,000 children from the Covid symptom study app suggest that children who test positive have a wide range of symptoms and that a cough is not as common in children as it is adults.

"We are also seeing gut symptoms and loss of appetite appear commonly as well as the classical fever."

He added that while gastrointestinal problems were seen in both adults and children, they were more common in children.

The US Centers for Disease Control has already listed nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea as possible symptoms.

A Department of Health and Social Care official said: "An expert scientific group keeps the symptoms of Covid-19 under review as we increase our understanding of the virus.

"Anyone in England experiencing the main symptoms of coronavirus - a high temperature, a new continuous cough, or a loss or change to sense of smell or taste - should get a test as soon as possible."

Meanwhile, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said evidence suggests the rate of new infections in private households in England "remains unchanged".

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An estimated 27,100 people in private households in England had Covid-19 between August 19 and 25, according to new figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

This was the equivalent of around 0.05% of the population, or one in 2,000 individuals.

The estimate is broadly unchanged from the previous figures for August 14 to 20, which were 0.05% of the population and one in 1,900 individuals.

The figures do not include people staying in hospitals, care homes or other institutional settings.

Evidence suggests the rate of new infections in private households in England "remains unchanged", the ONS said.

An average of 2,000 people per day were estimated to be newly infected with Covid-19 between August 19 and 25.

This is similar to previous weeks.

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