Kids under 5 have can have high levels of coronavirus in their noses

Children are less likely to get or spread coronavirus, but they are not immune.

kids under 5 coronavirus

We've now spent almost half a year living under the threat of the coronavirus. So much has happened since the CDC's assured parents that "based on available evidence, children do not appear to be at higher risk for COVID-19 than adults."

The latest science reinforces that but also suggests that young kids may be able to spread COVID-19 as easily as adults, even if they aren't that sick.

"Children are less likely to get coronavirus, spread coronavirus and have complications from coronavirus. But that doesn't mean they can't get it, can't spread it or don't have complications," ER doctor John Torres, Medical Correspondent for NBC News & MSNBC tells Motherly. "So safety measures need to be put in place."

Here's what you need to know about the latest science on kids and coronavirus:

Children under 5 carry high levels of coronavirus in their noses

kids under 5 can have high levels of covid-19

WHO clarifies stance on the asymptomatic spread of coronavirus

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A new study recently published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics, found kids under the age of 5 can have just as much of the coronavirus in their noses as older children and adults, even if they only have mild or moderate symptoms of the illness.

"We found that children under 5 with COVID-19 have a higher viral load than older children and adults, which may suggest greater transmission, as we see with respiratory syncytial virus, also known as RSV," says the study's lead author, Dr. Taylor Heald-Sargent.

A pediatric infectious diseases specialist at Lurie Children's and Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Heald-Sargent says this research is important to the ongoing discussion about school openings.

"We need to take that into account in efforts to reduce transmission as we continue to learn more about this virus."

Experts say more research needs to be done and that parents need to take steps to reduce the possibility of transmission (like reinforcing hand hygiene, maintaining social distancing, and having children over the age of 2 wear masks in public, especially indoors or where distancing cannot be maintained).

The hospital where Heald-Sargent's study took place tested everyone admitted for COVID-19, which showed that some kids were asymptomatic.

"We were catching kids who came in with a broken arm who happened to test positive," Heald-Sargent told NBC News.

COVID in kids is rare and researchers are working hard to protect our babies

child and coronavirusNew study: Children are only half as likely to get infected by the coronavirus

While research shows babies and preschoolers can become severely ill if they get COVID-19, data also shows how rare these cases are.

Back in March, the journal Pediatrics posted a pre-publication study suggesting babies and preschoolers could become severely ill if they get COVID-19, but scientists were quick to point out that while "there are subpopulations of children with an increased risk for more significant illness," including those with immunocompromising conditions, "children are less likely to become severely ill than older adults."

A more recent study published in the journal Nature Medicine this summer found children are only half as likely to get the coronavirus compared to adults. That study found kids are 35 to 60% less susceptible to coronavirus than adults are.

While children (especially those with compromised immune systems) can get sick, fatal cases in kids are very uncommon, according to the latest U.S. Centers for Disease Control data,

[A version of this post was originally published March 20, 2020. It has been updated.]