RIYADH: The Saudi Health Ministry has said that children make up the smallest percentage of confirmed coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases in the Kingdom, and that there is no difference in the recovery rate between healthy and chronically ill patients, like those with diabetes.
“Thankfully, there are low numbers of positive cases among children in the Kingdom, and those who contracted the disease have recovered, even if they had been suffering from a chronic illness,” said Dr. Mohammed Al-Harbi, the Ministry of Health’s chief of diabetes centers across the Kingdom’s hospitals, during a press conference on Thursday.
“According to studies carried out in Europe and China, 14 percent of diabetic children with COVID-19 showed no symptoms, while 36 percent had very mild symptoms, and 46 percent had moderate symptoms including fever but without breathing problems,” said Al-Harbi. “Only 2 percent experience extreme symptoms and no more than 1 percent of these children needed ventilators.”
However, other groups of children with more severe illnesses experience complications according to Al-Harbi, including those with cardiovascular diseases, chronic respiratory diseases like asthma, neurological disorders like epilepsy, and genetic immune deficiency.
“Despite that, there is no specific guidance for children (with) chronic diseases to stay safe from COVID-19,” he said. “Similarly to adults, they should be following preventive measures including washing hands and social distancing.”
Al-Harbi noted that when diabetic children become unwell, they should stay home unless they develop extreme symptoms, with increased blood glucose testing, and maintain insulin intake regardless of appetite to avoid diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), a serious complication that occurs when the body produces high levels of blood acids.
“Withholding insulin intake is a common mistake parents make when their diabetic child is ill and has reduced appetite, which might cause this complication (DKA) that is related to lack of insulin, not COVID-19,” he said.
“Labored breathing, abdominal pain, fruity breath odor, and mood swings are DKA symptoms,” said Al-Harbi, adding “whenever these symptoms are observed, the child must be immediately taken to the hospital.”
Meanwhile, the Kingdom recorded 54 new COVID-19-related deaths on Thursday, raising the total to 1,752.
There were 3,383 new cases reported in Saudi Arabia, meaning 197,608 people have now contracted the disease. There were 58,187 active cases, and 2,287 of them are in critical condition.
In addition, 4,909 more patients have recovered from COVID-19, taking the total number of recoveries in the Kingdom to 137,669.
Saudi Arabia has so far conducted 1,727,701 tests for COVID-19.